Jitendra Madhav Ramchandani

May 26, 2007

What's in name?

I read an interesting article on how today’s big electronics and computer giants got their names.

Here is the simpler version of what I read.

The prophets of RDBMS, Larry Ellison and Bob Miner worked on a consulting project for CIA, USA, where they were asked to use a new SQL language white papered by IBM. The code name of this project was “Oracle”. The project was in due course expired but Larry and Bob took chance to take their start-up work in the market and they use the same word “Oracle” to name their new RDBMS engine.

The company founder Marc Ewing was given a cap with Red and White strips by his grandfather. People would turn to him to solve their problems and he was famous as the guy in Red hat. Eventually when he founded his company he named it Redhat.


The word Yahoo! was invented by Jonathan Swift and used in his book Gulliver's Travels. It represents a person who is repulsive in appearance and action and is barely human. Yahoo! founders Jerry Yang and David Filo selected the name because they considered themselves yahoos.

The name Google is a spelling error. The founders of the site, Larry page and Sergey Brin, actually wanted to register “Googol” but they communicated this orally and then it was by mistake registered as “Google”.

The word Microsoft was coined by Bill Gates to represent the company that was devoted to MICROcomputer SOFTware. Originally christened Micro-Soft, the '-' was “shift deleted” later.

When Sabeer Bhatia came up with the business plan for the mail service, Jack Smith (another founder) tried all kinds of names ending in “mail” and finally settled for Hotmail as it included the letters “html” - the programming language used to write web pages. It was initially referred to as HoTMaiL with selective upper casings.

Apple was the favorite fruit of the founder Steve Jobs. He was running three months late in filing a name for the business, and he threatened to call his company Apple Computers if the other colleagues didn't suggest a better name.

However, in 1978, Apple Corps, the Beatles-founded holding company and owner of their record label, Apple Records, filed suit against Apple Computer for trademark infringement. The suit finally got settled in 1981 with an undisclosed amount being paid to Apple Corps.

The company name is derived from the initials for Stanford University Network.

The German gaint SAP stands for "Systems, Applications, Products in Data Processing." The name comes from the founding members, four ex-IBM employees who used to work in the ‘Systems/Applications/Projects’ group at IBM.

Cisco is short for San Francisco. It has also been suggested that it was "CIS-co": Computer Information Services was the department at Stanford University where the founders worked.

Founders Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore wanted to name their new company ‘Moore Noyce’ but that was already trademarked by a hotel chain, so they had to settle for an acronym for INTegrated ELectronics.

Sony owes its name to the Latin word “Sonus” and an American slang “Sonny” that means a bright youngster. It was chosen for its simple pronunciation that was same in any language.

So it is now a 50 years old “bright American youngster”.

Founders Paul and Joe Galvin came up with this name when their company started manufacturing car radios. Many early manufacturers of phonographs, radios and other audio gadgets in early 20th century used the suffix “ola”, that means “Hello” in Latin.

As the company was focused on making automotive electronics, the name was meant to express the idea of “sound” and “motion” and hence the word “Motorola” was coined.

This is taken from the Greek word “Xer” which means “dry”. As they produced the world’s first plain paper copier, the name Xerox was coined.

This is quite interesting; the founders Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett.

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