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11 Popular Technologies and the Wackadoo Origins of Their Names

chasestevens profile image Chase Stevens ・2 min read

Or: Why Computer Geeks Typically Leave the Words to the English Majors

Software engineers hold a revered status in society, creating games for our smart phones and professional tools for our dumb jobs, all the while making a pretty penny for their programs. They position themselves as visionaries, geniuses, and rock stars and they act as if their products are handed down from on high. Silicon Valley thinks it has the knowledge and the know-how to make the world a better place.

But you wouldn't know it looking at the names they choose for their products - some of them suck (Zune, Chumby, iMuffs).

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet (except crap weed). Or would it? Is Silicon Valley filled with omniscient techno-gods who will solve all our problems, or are they pompous nerds who need to read a book? Let's take a look into the names of well known technologies and tech companies and see where they got their origins.

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Google Originally called BackRub (after the backlink technology used to determine search results), founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page recognized they needed a new name for their nascent search engine. They held a meeting, Someone pitched "googol" as a name, they liked it, someone misspelled "googol," and they arrived at (Google)[]. 

"Google" is now a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary - could you imagine saying "Siri, backrub foot doctors near me?"

Bug The concept of "my program doesn't work in the way I intend it to" is named after a literal moth flew the Mark II computer at Harvard in 1947.

The First Computer Bug

The first bug, or the reason why errors in your code aren't called "typefarts (courtesy of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History)

Apple Steve Jobs liked apples.

Macintosh Steve Jobs' employee Jef Raskin liked Macintosh apples.

Java First called "Oak" after an oak tree outside of the founder's office, it was later named "Green" and then "Java" after some Java coffee in the office kitchen. Other name ideas included "stapler," "Mike," and "that She-Ra action figure dealie on Mike's desk."

Javascript From its humble beginnings as a programming language for browsers called Livescript, Netscape wanted to capture some of the hot marketing buzz of Java (which itself was named after the third object the founder saw).

Python Creator Guido van Rossum named after Monty Python's Flying Circus, a sketch show from the 70's. His next door neighbor made a programming language named "Brian" and caused some mix-up.

Linux Creator Linus Torvalds named the popular open source operating system after himself.

Git British slang for "unpleasant person", creator Linus Torvalds also named it after himself

It's true. Go backrub it.

Discussion (6)

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

These are fun! I've always liked bash - the "Bourne-Again Shell". I also get a kick out of the recursive acronym tradition: GNU for Gnu's Not Unix, WINE for Wine Is Not an Emulator, PHP for PHP: Hypertext Processor, PIP for PIP Installs Packages, or Allegro for the Allegro Low LEvel Game ROutine. There's dozens.

gregbair profile image

Love it! PHP is a backronym, though, changed from "Personal Home Page". I find that even better.

chasestevens profile image
Chase Stevens Author

Thanks Ben! I think my new favorite recursive acronym is "ZWEI — ZWEI Was EINE Initially"

deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

Hah! Mine too, now, that's amazing.

inozex profile image
Tiago Marques

Delphi have a great connectivity with Oracle databases.
Delphi": If you want to talk to [the] Oracle, go to Delphi (pun to the Greek mythology)
Full history:

lyfolos profile image
Muhammed H. Alkan

Linux Creator Linus Torvalds named the popular open source operating system > after himself.

No. Linux is not an OS, it's a kernel. GNU/Linux is an OS.