September 25, 2007

Let's come up with better names for common objects.

Like computer. That's not properly descriptive of what you do with it. Not really computing very much, are you? I remember when a computer was referred to as an electronic brain. That was pretty exciting. Back in the 50s and 60s. And I remember in the early 80s, when I was working in a law firm, that the secretaries all worked on what they called word processors. (And we lawyers weren't allowed to have them in our offices, because we wouldn't look like lawyers.)

34 comments:

Original Mike said...

95% of what I do with my computers is compute.

Ron said...

Maybe referring back to the '50's and '60's: "Ideatron" or "Thinkinator."
Something retro-tech like that!

MadisonMan said...

Ditto. My computers are also used to compute things.

Paddy O. said...

Better names are for uncommon things. Let the mundane be addressed with the mundane.

A person just can't be filled with excitement and thrill of potential each morning when erasing spam and filling out a spreadsheet.

Seems like trying to make the commonplace into marvels is what car manufacturers do, making up impressive words to fill our hearts with supposed glee.

But the cars still don't fly or travel in time or run on atomic power. Naming something grand when it isn't becomes an excuse not to innovate, not to make something that earns a new word or takes possession of a grand one.

Better names for the commonplace exalt the commonplace. "We're all winners! Yay!"

Design an object to fit the better name. Don't dilute a word to help us feel like our boring, pedestrian, prosaic existence has some kind of magic about it.

And really airport is a great name. It's not a station. We're not riding buses. We're walking up the ramp to sail in the air. Very nautical really. And nautical is much more romantic. Don't go to the plane station to travel to an exotic location. Go to the Air Port, where exotic locations are but a few hours away.

Original Mike said...

In point of fact, Ann, you are computing. You just don't know it.

Pogo said...

Depends what you're doing.

The Blogomatic for some, the WorldofWarcraftinator for others, an Email-o-spamgenerator for others still. NewsCollator, eShopper, MusicandMovieTheftBox, the WorkAvoider.

Orgasmitron seems likely, for some.

Ron said...

Maybe we should name our machines like we would horses, ("Ol' Lightning Bolt!") and when we are through with them send them to Cavel so that the Russians and French may eat them...

hygate said...

The names of most common items aren't descriptive. A pencil is a pencil, not a "graphic inscribing device." When using one you write or sketch or draw, very seldom does anyone "pencil." A car, once more commonly referred to as the much more descriptive automobile, is now usually just called a car. Cars are driven, not "carred." In that vein, descriptive terms are often shortened: automobile vs. auto, electronic mail vs. e-mail, telephone vs. phone, compact disc vs. cd, web log vs. blog. Finally, looks like I will be the first to quote Shakespeare on this one "A rose by any other name."

Verso said...

Ah yes, I remember those early 1980's word processors. That was what I first learned to "word process" on, as a teenager in my dad's engineering department at Ford Motor Company. It was the coolest thing.

They were called "word processors" because that's all they did: they did one thing and one thing only.

When computers are dedicated to a single purpose, they get a unique name, rather than the generic lable "computer."

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what kind of new name for computers people could come up with. Right now, I don't see anything on the horizon.

dick said...

The problem is that back when the computer got named that is exactly what it was used for. I started programming for a living back in 1962 and there was no thought at the time of using computers for what they are now being used for. They were there to be jumped up accounting machines and to speed up lengthy scientific computations. They were also extremely expensive since they were built with either vacuum tubes or transistors and occupies huge amounts of real estate. I worked on on where the computer had 80 magnetic tape drives the size of refrigerators and 64 disk drives the size of washing machines as well as 3 printers the size of an executive desk. The operating console was big enough that it took 4 people to manage it. This computer had 4 million transistors and was used for weather forecasting. They used 16 people whose job was to change the tapes on the tape drives and mount different disks and there was also a lead operator who sat on a dais and communicated instructions to the people from a microphone. Computer was the right thing to call it and so we did.

If what you are saying is that we should rename it to better reflect what it is used for now, what would you suggest and good luck getting people to change at this point in time.

AllenS said...

Don't ever call your computer Hal, because it might turn out to be evil.

Anthony said...

As a matter of fact, computers were named after people who were "computers". Their job was to carry out the numerous computations needed by scientists and engineers.

At the very bottom of it, every computer now is just doing bazillions of computations to display all this crap on my screen now.

bill said...

Just go with Turing's "Universal Machine."

Otherwise, I prefer "Babbaginator."

Maxine Weiss said...

You aren't supposed to say "Secretary"----they're Administrative Assistants. You can't say "Maid" or "Stewardess" either, you must say "Flight Attendant".

What are Maids being called these days?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The actual name for the "brain/box" of the computer is the Central Processing Unit aka CPU.

That's the box that contains the mother board (I like that name) and all the other components, drives, video cards, sound cards etc. Think of it like Grand Central Station. Central Processing Unit. CPU.

Mary said...

What are Maids being called these days?

Housekeepers.

Pogo said...

My computer's formal name is She Who Must be Obeyed, After Of Course My Wife.

But like a cat, no matter what the hell I call it, it never comes. So mostly I call it Stupidpieceofshit when it isn't working or, less often hey you when it is.

hdhouse said...

I have, in my attic, a PC purchased in 1981 to replace my word processor (Xerox). I still have my Peachtree software to run computational spreadsheets. It cost $3900 (still have the receipt) with an epson printer.

It had no memory well, perhaps a screen's worth, and you were constantly saving to floppy. It still works but I don't miss it.

I think of three technological advances since my word processor....the fax, which ruined any excuse for "stuck in the mail", now pretty much replaced by email, PCs becoming communications platforms where I can build a website, edit a picture, write a narrative, forecast a budget and splice together a movie without moving from my seat, and the cell phone which is the ruination of western civilization.

There was something very reassuring about typing my dissertation on a "per the hour" Selectric II typewriter...

Anthony said...

Heh, Pogo. I was just going to post that I can't really repeat most of the things I call my computers.

Well, not the computer actually, just the half-assed software, mostly from Micro$oft.

Here's a Wiki page on human computers.

Anthony said...

There was something very reassuring about typing my dissertation on a "per the hour" Selectric II typewriter...

See, that's beyond me. Then again, I suppose if I hadn't had a computer I wouldn't have created a 500-page monstrosity either.

rhhardin said...

Well I certainly compute with it, running even now on the very computer I'm posting this with.

You have to consider math hobby people.

Michael McNeil said...

Yeah, there was a fellow on the Usenet one time who said, "I remember when 'computer' was a job title, and I was one!"

Maxine Weiss said...

I loathed Selectrics. And I detested the "Selectric touch". It felt like a wooden board.

I thought Smith-Corona had a lot more warmth and charm...

...until I found out they were manufactured in Mexico.

Maxine Weiss said...

Trust me, all the gals in the steno pool hated Selectrics.

The really fast typists (Over 90 wpm) were using Smith-Corona, or even "Brother"....who still makes typewriters, I think. ---For when you need to address a quick envelope or fill in a form on the fly.

Daryl said...

In France, they call them "Ordinators" (sorters) because they don't want to use pervert their language with English-based words.

I think computers should keep their name. That's what they do: compute. Endlessly. They just keep crunching very simple calculations.

Calling them "brains" is stupid. Computers can't think, and they can't yet approximate thinking in a meaningful way.

A pencil is a pencil, not a "graphic inscribing device."

If we follow your lead, we would end up with . . . the German Language!!! GrafiksinskribinkdeviBe

Smilin' Jack said...

I also vote to keep "computer." Everything you do on a computer is in fact a computation, and sometimes it's good to be reminded of that.

Pogo said...

Well, I'll just stick with That Torpid and Malevolent Beast from Hell, but that's just me.

blake said...

Actually, "computer" is a perfect name precisely because it's so generic. Computers are generic in use.

So if I program mine and therefore call it a "Turing" but then my wife comes over and uses it to send an e-mail or surf the web, do we call it an "e-mailer" or "browser"? And then if my son comes over and does research on it, does it become an "electronic encyclopedia"? And if we play a game, is it a "game station"?

I have a piece of paper here. It's a piece of paper whether I calculate on it, draw on it, make a paper airplane out of it, inflict paper cuts on myself with it, use it as a napkin for spilled milk. It's still paper.

Pogo said...

Re: "It's still paper."

But if you use a high quality printer and a good picture of Ben Franklin, it's money.

I mean, if you did that, which would be very, very wrong.

Shan said...

The common refrain in our office is that we open Excel before we open Outlook (unlike the Corp. Finance types who who do the opposite). So agreeing with others before, most of what I do on the computer is compute.

Synova said...

The first "computers" couldn't compute. What was one of them called? CADET? Can't Add Doesn't Even Try?

So they finally got ones that could *compute* and called them *computers*.

Makes sense to me.

amba said...

Infobilicus. Ideostomy bag. Idealysis machine.

In Romania they still call it calculator electronic. And the French call it L'ordinateur.

Blake said...

Pogo,

But if one were to do that very, very wrong thing, wouldn't it lack that essential value of money, i.e., confidence.

No, wait, the essential value of being-able-to-use-it-without-getting-
sent-to-FPMITA-prison?

pcrh said...

That's the box that contains the mother board (I like that name) and all the other components, drives, video cards, sound cards etc.

To be technical, (I was going to say, "not to be technical" but that's exactly what I'm doing) the CPU doesn't include all those things. It's just a part of the chip that executes program instructions. Most of those other devices just aid the CPU in its tasks.