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technology termsDid you ever wonder where Bluetooth got its funny name? Once this question had surfaced, I started pondering on many other brand names and computer terms. Were the inventors of Apache native Americans? What has SPAM got to do with anything? And why do you boot a computer?

In this article I will shed some light the meaning and origin of some well known brand names and commonly used computer terms. Some stories will make you see these brands in an entirely different light.

Adobe

The company was named after Adobe Creek, a stream in California that ran behind the house of Adobe co-founder John Warnock.

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Apache Software Foundation

This is a non-profit corporation, that supports Apache software projects. It all started with the Apache HTTP Server, a public-domain open source web server software. The original developers wrote patch files to improve NCSA HTTPd, one of the first web servers, which during its peak, powered over 95% of online web servers. The result of the patched NCSA HTTPd was ‘a patchy server‘, which was later transformed into Apache.

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Apple Computers

There are many legends surrounding the origin of the name and they all have one thing in common – Steve Jobs What Is The Legacy Of Steve Jobs? [Geeks Weigh In] What Is The Legacy Of Steve Jobs? [Geeks Weigh In] Steve Jobs has stepped down as CEO of Apple, and while he will continue as Apple's chairman, his relinquishment of the title is a clear indication that he sees his time as Apple’s leader coming... Read More . Rumor has it that the apple is his favorite fruit. You will also read that he worked in an apple orchard where he was happy, or that he visited a commune he referred to as the apple orchard.

One myth explains that Jobs was late filing a name for his newly found business and threatened to call it Apple Computers if no one would come up with something different. Co-founder Steve Wozniak remembers that they could simply not come up with a better name and therefore agreed on Apple.

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Bluetooth

This is the word that inspired the present article. Its origin is not easily guessed, unless you are a history buff. The term can be traced back to 10th century king of Denmark (958-987) and Norway (970-987), Harald Blåtand (Norwegian: Blåtann). During his time, Harald united Danish tribes into one single kingdom. His by-name Blåtand translates into Bluetooth, which today is known as a wireless technology, that unites different communication protocols into one universal standard.

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Booting

Booting describes the process of loading a computer’s operating system into the main memory. The term is derived from the expression to bootstrap, which in turn originates from the idiom ‘to pull oneself up by one’s bootstraps‘. The problem it describes is that a computer cannot run without software, but it must be running to load software.

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Google

With this search engine being as famous as it is, most people actually know the origin of its name. Googol is the name of the number 1 followed by 100 zeros. Picking Googol as the name for their search engine was a joke and the misspelled word Google was picked because the respective domain was not yet registered.

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SPAM

Spam originally had nothing to do with unsolicited emails. SPAM is a trademark for a canned pre-cooked meat product that can be served hot or cold. Electronic spam got its name from a 1970 Monty Python sketch making fun of the food product.

TWAIN

TWAIN is a standard for connecting image acquisition devices, such as scanners or digital cameras, to desktop applications. The name has nothing to do with the famous author. Instead, it is a male first name of middle English origin, meaning ‘two pieces’.

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Ubuntu

The popular Debian-based Linux operating system was named after a philosophy. The term has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa. According to the definition offered by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a person with Ubuntu can be described as

open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

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Yahoo!

Yahoos are fictional beings. In his novel Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift describes them as primitive creatures, filthy with unpleasant habits. The college girlfriend of Yahoo! co-founder David Filo referred to him as a Yahoo, which was college slang for rude, unsophisticated, and uncouth. The name stuck.

technology terms

What are the technology-related names or terms you would like to know the origins of?

Image credits: Yaro, iamsania

  1. spotview
    October 26, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    very nice post! thank you

  2. What's in a Name
    October 21, 2011 at 3:41 am

    How about the Berkeley Software Daemon (or "demon"), aka the original "Beastie" boy from BSD ("beastie") Unix? :)

    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/BSD_Daemon

    "The BSD daemon is named after a software daemon, a computer program found on Unix-like operating systems, which through a play on words takes the cartoon shape of a mythical demon. The BSD daemon's nickname Beastie is a slurred phonetic pronunciation of BSD. Beastie customarily carries a trident to symbolize a software daemon's forking of processes. The FreeBSD web site has noted Evi Nemeth's 1988 remarks about cultural-historical daemons in the Unix System Administration Handbook:
    "The ancient Greeks' concept of a 'personal daemon' was similar to the
    modern concept of a 'guardian angel' ...As a rule, UNIX systems seem to
    be infested with both daemons and demons.'"

    • Tina
      October 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. Scutterman
    October 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Just for the sake of correctness, "a patchy" server isn't the origin of the name, it was chosen out of respect for the native Americans of the same name. http://apache.org/foundation/faq.html#name

    • Tina
      October 6, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      Thanks for the correction!

  4. Bill Pearson
    October 6, 2011 at 10:45 am

    Some say YAHOO stands for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle

    • Tina
      October 6, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      Well, there actually is a humorous follow-up post regarding these acronyms (submitted yesterday). ;) 

  5. Andrew Gould
    October 6, 2011 at 3:33 am

    I was once asked by a customer what SAP stands for, so I emailed them and found out. It stands for 'Systems, Analysis and Procedures'. The customer was disappointed.

    • Tina
      October 6, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Why were they disappointed? What did they think it stood for?

  6. Joe Anderson
    October 6, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Probably not true, but amusing nevertheless: TWAIN -- Technology Without An Interesting Name

    • Tina
      October 6, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Yep, coming up in follow-up post next week. :)

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