On the naming of computers and its evolution

Like many geeks, I have my own style in naming the machines I have access to. This may sound strange to people not used to live between a chair and a monitor but, according to many, you may really want to give a name to the non-animated thinking being (please note the double absurd of calling something non-animated as a being and describing it as thinking) you spend much of your time with.

My naming convention has always been the same since the very beginning of my “serious” (like in UNIX) involvement in computers: using different translation of the word “emperor”. “Emperor” is one of the countless nicknames my friends gave to me in these 22 years. Since the computers were/are mine and/or administered by me, I chose to give them one of my names. Yes, a bit selfish.

My main desktop machine has always been called kaiser (German): it is a strong word with a powerful pronunciation which resembles the meaning of the word. Other machines’ names I used are czar (Russian) and empereur (French). Starting from this use of royalty names, I began using others: kadett (German for `cadet’) (my old HP Jornada 680), margravio (an old Italian word for `marquess’) (a very very old IBM PS/2 N33SX, actually one of the first computers I used and which I resurrected using FreeDOS), ambassador (not really royalty, but it fitted because it was the name of my wireless network), siniscalco (Italian for `seneschal’) (another wireless network). There is another convention which I use on my *nix machines: the following line is always present in the /etc/motd file

Welcome to Rionda's $OSNAME (with $OSNAME being usually FreeBSD, or Darwin for my laptop)

The names of my laptops don’t follow the royalty naming convention, but my first Apple iBook Firewire (named scudiero, Italian for `squire’). The second, the immortal beautiful (not really) powerful (not really) IBM Thinkpad R50e was named krapfengeist, a German word which approximately means “the spirit of donuts” =). Third, and last one, my current Apple MacBook Aluminium, whose name is no less than abulafia.

Now, let me explain this last one. One of my favourite books, together with “The Name of the Rose” and “Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid”, is Umberto Eco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum”. I read it at least once every year, often twice a year. One of the main characters uses a computer to develop a Plan (why the capital “P”? Go read the book!) and to write personal memories. Or, as Wikipedia says, it was used “not only for word processing, but also to attempt to extract meaningful snippets from random permutations of text in a fashion reminiscent of Abraham Abulafia’s methods”. Yes, the computer’s name in the book is abulafia. I like the book and the way the computer is used in the book so much that I chose to name my own laptop after it.

There is an additional feature of the book I like to mention. It is a bit of a spoiler, so don’t read this paragraph if you want to read the book. At the very start of the book, another main character has to break into abulafia but he doesn’t know the password. When the machine is started, the following message is printed on the screen:

Do you have the password?

After having tried many times using numbers, names, permutations of the name of God (ihaveh) (the book even describes a program to generate the 720 permutations), the hacker is tired and lost:

Do you have the password?   no

He types “no”. And he is logged in. “no” was the password. I find this brilliant. It makes sense with everything. I cannot explain why here: I would spoil the whole plot.
Read the book.

And give a name to your computer. It deserves it.

As bonus, you get the /etc/motd from my laptop:

Welcome to Rionda's Darwin

Do you have the password? no
Umberto Eco - "Foucault's Pendulum"

P.S. Nice geekish post, isn’t it?

Comments 7

  1. Ollivier Robert wrote:

    In the same spirit as Ecco’s book, you have the writing on top of the backdoor to Moria in _The Fellowship of the Ring_ from Tolkien. It is written, translated from either Quenya or Sindarin (I don’t recall which, got to read it again) “Speak friend and enter”. Gandalf tries every spell he knows without success. After a few hours, he realizes that speaking the Elvish word for “friend” (Mellon) is enough…

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 12:50
  2. Monte wrote:

    Too much also for you…

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 14:36
  3. Fontzy wrote:

    Valgono come nomi anche le offese con cui apostrofo il mio ormai vetusto pc? Perché in quel caso potrei scegliere tra una vasta gamma di improperi.
    *Comunque, a occhio, soffri di una qualche malattia compulsiva difficilmente curabile.*

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 16:25
  4. Madez wrote:

    Ehm..well, as you WELL know, I give names too, to some objects, my pc included, although at times I do threaten it to change it’s name, but in the end I tell myself it is not computers which are stupid… so the name stays! =)

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 16:38
  5. flevour wrote:

    Per me il nome della macchina non è mai stato una priorità, ma apprezzo profondamente the geek pride che codest post essuda.

    Posted 03 Dec 2008 at 19:27
  6. LuxElle wrote:

    prima avevo il chicco – sospirato laptop che aveva in sè tutto e che ho portato dappertutto nonostante fosse pesantino…ora…dopo essere stata abbandonata dal chicco non ho dato il nome a questo nuovo vistainfestato laptop che ho desiderato meno dell’altro e che non ha la forma e le additional things che desideravo dall’esemplare di laptop che avrei voluto dal chicco. ciononostante dorei attribuire un nome a sto coso…anche perchè ben si sa che questo mi durerà in eterno

    Posted 04 Dec 2008 at 16:37
  7. darcsis wrote:

    As for me, my machines are named after the planets of our solar system. And the names may not be in English. My OpenBSD server is ‘Sol’ and my desktop machine is ‘Pluton’.

    Posted 22 Dec 2008 at 02:35

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  1. From On the naming of computers and its evolution | Matteo's Wasps' Nest on 2008-12-03T06:38:13+0000 at 03 Dec 2008

    [...] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptLike many geeks, I have my own style in naming the machines I have access to. This may sound strange to people not used to live between a chair and a monitor. [...]

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