There was an old tradition in the computer world – especiallly in the Unix culture – of giving computers “colorful” named, grouped in some constellation of words, such as, oh, constellations, colors, cartoon characters, beers, and so on.This tradition has been supplanted, sadly, in much of corporate IT – coming from a PC culture. – of “embedded data” names or sequential numbers. You get computer names like HOUSQL001 – note the numeric range being reserved here, because you “might” get 998 other computers with the same location and function. Or, you get a simple US1421, a random number drawn out of a hat.This is boring. And wrong too. What happens if your computer changes location? Or function? Or takes on an additional function, like Mail? I have run in to IT managers that say “we just rename the machine”. Yikes!This is wrong, because computers have personality. Colorful .names are easier to remember and associate. I can always remember that Polaris is in our. Boston data center, and is our chief guidance center sits it runs DNS. I can never remember if US1187 is in Denver or Miami, nor what how it differs from US1178. This truly is a safety issue, if obe of them is a test machine and can be rebooted at will, while the other runs a life support system (and yes, I have logged in to the wrong customer’s machines before, about to issue a destructive command!) With hundreds of generic names running around, you have to keep a chart handy, just to keep things straight. Mnemonic memory flies out the door at this stage. And forget about personality – “DK48472 is always low on memory” doesn’t have the same to ring to it as “Orion has had a finicky drive controller ever since we purchased it”.Colorful names are simply more fun, and are part of our rich traditions.I was thinking about this recently after I revived one of old computers for the sake of a forensics investigation (yes, how exciting! I’ll save that for another story). This computer was a vintage 1992 Macintosh Centris 650, and was our workhouse office machine at the time, until we moved to Houston and it became our home computer until 2001 or so, to be replaced finally by one the new cool “lampshade” Macs.The Centris was called “bigMac”. Its replacement is called homeMac. My 12″ Powerbook is called littleMac. Connie’s machine is named teaMac. Yvette, off to college, named her new machine “Mac Daddy” (I guess a homage to its funding source). Our old home PC was called Chiclet (you’d have to see its keyboard to understand). I’ve got a 1985 mac in my closet, but I can’t remember its name. I’d like to boot it up to see, but a flyback transformer has fried, rendering the steen a dark, blank state.At my office, computers are named after Greek gods. There’s plenty of those names to go around – Hydra the many-headed, multi-function workhouse machine? Athena the beautiful graphics workstation, Artemis the hunting sales station. Yes, we have fun with our names, and so should you.
I'm the founder and president of Agoric Source, LLC, co-organizer of the Houston Python Meetup, and active board member of several local non-profit organizations, including Ten Thousand Villages Houston, the Houston Area Model United Nations, and the Weekley Family YMCA. I'm first and foremost still a software hacker, but with my economics background and business experience, I serve well as a project or program manager, technical visionary, etc. I'm opinionated, but hopefully reasonable so. My blog is just a chance for me to keep up with my writing skills, and expound upon various technology and policy subjects. I especially try to keep up with the Houston software community. View all posts by kevin