You May Now Call Your Computer A…

Portal?

Or how about:

A Confuser… the Screen … the Box … God … HAL … or how about Abra, short for “artificial brain.”

These were among the many suggestions you wrote in response to our contest asking readers to rename the computer.

Let me say it once again: our readership is awesomely creative, smart, and funny. Thanks for all the suggestions.

Several of you made the good point that we don’t really call the computer a computer that often anymore. Already, it’s a Mac, a PC, a laptop, etc. Still, let’s keep playing along. Besides the names listed above, here are some of the other suggestions I liked:

Producer, Miracle Box, Exo-Brain, E-Brain, Byte Box, Tether.

I also like “Magic Box of Continually Changing and Life-Altering Potential,” except that it’s a little, um, long. Also, as acronyms go, MBOCCALAP isn’t very catchy — although it does sound like something you might eat in North Dakota (kind of like lefsa?) or maybe a lyric from Graceland.

A reader named Bruce Stasiuk suggested Goose Feather — because, as he explained, “it’s mostly down.”

A reader named Luis suggested Konrad, as in Konrad Zuse — “in honour,” he explained, “of its neglected German inventor (during WWII).” Luis offered a smart and powerful reason to choose Konrad: it would “provide a massive social incentive to prospective inventors.” (FWIW, I like “Zuse” as a name even more than “Konrad.”)

For all the variations on the “brain” theme, I was surprised that no one suggested the name I was thinking about: Genius. Doesn’t that work? “Let me ask the Genius.” “The Genius is slow today.” “Who unplugged my Genius?” Sigh. I guess I’m just not very good at names.

There was one word that showed up in a quite a few answers: “life.” Among your suggestions were names like Life Organizer, Life Cache, Life Hacker (although, yes, it’s already taken), and Life Plus — since, as a reader named Kitt explained, “It takes your normal life and adds to it.” (In that vein, Second Life wouldn’t be a bad name either, although that too is already taken.)

But my favorite of all — and, therefore, the winner of our renaming contest — is: LifeLine. It’s descriptive, memorable, familiar but not overly so, upbeat, alliterative, and abbreviate-able: LL. (The abbreviation works well in print, which is important, though I find it easier to say “LifeLine” than “LL.”) What’s not to like?

And so, to “h” (commenter No. 153), congratulations: you have successfully given the world a new and arguably better name for the computer, and as a prize you can have your pick of Freakonomics Schwag.

Of course you are all free to disagree with my judgment.

More important, you are all free to suggest future renaming contests. Thanks again for participating.


Luke

how about a cellphone renaming contest?
social leash

Eddie Haskell

We always called computers, posting machines.

Ashish

I liked your thoughts about all the sobriquets mentioned there, but about 'LifeLine' I have some doubts. Don't you think that even though with its ubiquitous presence, we should, to some extent, avoid making ourselves slave and servile dependent to the computers...that's where I see 'LifeLine' is a bit over sought. Lets live a little...a natural life...without them.
By the way I m too a computer geek and don't hate them.

Wat You Say?
+Ashish

P.S.: My alias for Computers would be "SideLife".

Robin

I don't think genius is a great name for a computer because they are quite dumb in actuality. Just see how much work the thing gets done without you pushing all the shiny buttons. I'd suggest Faux Intelligent Paperweight.

Ian

Did anyone suggest "Silly Funbox"? I'm too lazy to go through the replies on the old post.

Ian

EB

I was surprised no one suggested "Trouble."

AK

I'm indifferent to the name "LifeLine", generally, but I am tired of the trend of pushing two words together while retaining the second capital. I think (or hope) this trend will go the way of sticking ".com" or "e-" at the end/beginning of everything.

Why not just Life Line? If that's not catchy enough, I suggest that pushing them together doesn't improve things.

Pete

I work on them for a living. so how about "Paycheck" or "Pain in the @$$"

zoe

Just wondering: have you ever read the book, Frindle?

Mike

Definitely the best replacement for "computer" is "Google."

Nick

I think Umbockalap is a fabulous acronym, at least from the point of view of saying it aloud... I'm wandering around the bedroom saying it now - Umbockalap... Ummmmbockalap... my wife says you are a bad influence.

jtrash

my favorite is still procrastinabler, dont remember who the origional poster was but that was definatly the most fitting for me personally

Marc

I don't care for LifeLine. Computers are extremely useful and in some ways they've revolutionized society, but "LifeLine" implies that computers are literally essential to life. That's taking things too far.

My personal suggestion: "inertbot". It's like a robot, except it just sits in one spot.

Davey

Jeez, why didn't I think of this before? A Freaklink. A Stevelink? Nah, Freaklink is better. Nothing like pandering for a yo-yo.

Martin

How about a competition for the best definition of man(humans). "Rational beings" certainly is a horrible definition, as many humans are irrational, and many animals are rational. "Featherless biped" is horrible as well, for reason pointed out by the author.

anon

I call my computer lots of names; none of them are publishable.

Silvanus

@Martin-

Rational's root is ratio- which is to divide. I'm unaware of any creature on earth that uses ratio as a behavioral context.

For those who are Gebserians, Rationalism is the deficient mode of Perspectival Thought Structures (preceded by efficient and defficient Mythic, Magical and the Origin [archaic]- so, an up and down side to each thought structure, of which Gebser explains 4 including the integral- the next stage in thought structures). For the origin of man, the root Indo-European is "ma"- which is make/power (German is a little weird in translation to English sometimes).

Man is a good definition already- it heralds our drive to power and our use of tools. Best to know why words are what before declaring them obsolete or unknowable. : /

As for renaming something? How about a non technologically oriented subject- how about "children." Many people care for them, many people regard them as a viable market, many people make decisions in the interest of this demographic group, which is marked by time as a transitory status.

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Nathan

@marc, some would say computers are indeed vital for modern life. Virtually any aspect of life has been impacted by computers.

The reason I dislike 'LifeLine' is because it's not very original, but hey, that's just my personal opinion.

Moshe Teitz

How about the "idiot box", i'm aware that is commonly the term used for a television but hey, why not? Also further on your Genius idea how about something like "Merlin" or "The Wizard"...no? Ok maybe those aren't so great.

Brendan Lawlor

Just put down an Douglas Hofstadter's excellent book I Am A Strange Loop (top 5 best books ever read). He mentions the fact that a computer is exactly that - something that computes. If you look at the low-level activity of what your processor is doing, it's nothing more than arithmetic. Integer arithmetic. So in one sense, 'computer' is precisely the right way to describe it.

That fact that it can be a Universal Machine by interpreting wildly different forms of programming instructions (thanks to it's Turing/Von Neumann architecture), allows the computer to be all things to all people (a potential that it has not come even close to fulfilling). So on this level of abstraction, the machine can be seen as an electronic brain (that's what the Chinese sometimes call it: dian naozi).

But it's not at that level of intelligence (yet?) as it cannot program itself. So really it's just a substrate in which some external intelligence can be seeded.

Idealog? Conceptatory?

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