Tech Giants And The Name Game

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From the treasury of Shakespearean quotations, emerges the timeless and immortalized sentiments voiced by Juliet to Romeo in the classic story of star crossed lovers:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

For a lady so deeply in love, it was the person that mattered most; name was just a meaningless convention. However, traveling from the realm of drama to the world of reality, a name definitely has a big role in shaping and establishing one’s identity. Be it an individual or an organization, it’s the name that carves one’s niche in a lifetime. Striding along the path of technology, it is interesting to unravel the history of how some tech giants got their names.

From iPhones and iPads to computers and other products, Apple has revolutionized the tech industry. Now what’s the story behind its name? Steve Jobs revealed to his biographer Walter Isaacson that he was on one of his “fruitarian diets” and after having visited an apple orchard decided on the name Apple because it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”

Jeff Bezos wanted a company name which started with an “A” so that it appeared near the top in an alphabetical list. He also envisioned his company to be amongst the biggest ones and chose the name Amazon after the world’s largest river. True to his wishes, Amazon prides itself as one of the world’s topmost online retailers, having led an e-commerce revolution that has put many companies out of business.

It’s hard to imagine data mining without Google which gives information about literally anything under the sun. It is rumored that Google apparently was a deliberate misspelling of googol! A googol is the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes, and the founders wanted to convey the idea of the search engine indexing a big volume, or googol, of information.

Online social networking service Twitter stipulates messages to be short within a maximum of 280 characters. Initially considering between “jitter” and “twitch”, the founders, while exploring dictionary entries, discovered the meaning of twitter as “short burst of inconsequential information, and chirps from birds”. The definition perfectly suited their product, and so the company name was born!

Cisco Systems, a world leader specializing in networking equipment, has a logo that resembles the suspension cables of the Golden Gate Bridge. A work of ingenuity is in the company name which is nothing else but a shortening of the name of San Francisco where it was founded in 1984.

There are oodles of stories, and the tracking list of how some of the most prolific companies got their names is a long one. Hailing from a north-eastern state in India, I was particularly impressed by a rather “spicy” story that has connection to the place. I’m by no means a technology geek, and almost all technical terms sound Greek and Latin to me. But with a techie husband and a son following in his footsteps, I can’t help but overhear certain conversations between them and in the process be familiar with some of the jargon.

I had once overheard a discussion about “jolokia” which is an exceptionally hot chili pepper cultivated in the state of Assam. Jolokia pickles are pretty famous, and though I personally have a low tolerance for it, the Assamese people are quite fond of this pepper. However, to my utter surprise, I discovered that the father and son were not at all talking about the pepper. The “jolokia” that had interested them was an open source software for some technology called Java Management Extensions (JMX) which again is beyond my realm of comprehension. The software was so named because the developer is an ardent lover of chilis just as he is passionate about JMX. Another reason cited by him was that jolokia, the pepper, with a rating of more than 1 million Scoville heat units was a good metaphor for a hot new approach to the technology.

A catchy name with a dash of brevity is what usually appeals to the populace. At the root of the entire naming process lies a creative instinct. It’s creativity and imagination that enables one to see things beyond the horizon. A quote from Einstein muses, “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” In the absence of foresight and innovative ideas, we are doomed to be a civilization that will be on the path of regression. The formula for success, as often heard, is to be in the right place at the right time. Well, if everything ought to be right, then a right name, along with other attributes, is equally instrumental in creating a unique identity in the breezy, adventurous ride to progress!



  1. Very informative piece Rashmi.. and beautiffully written……. and I agree every piece of what you have written on your conclusion.

  2. Another unique & interesting write-up! You are becoming a techie too… influenced by the two A’s in your life ☺

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