Names Given to Computers

"It's called the Flint Lockwood Diatonic Super Mutating Dynamic Food Replicator. Or, for short - the "flihsivdefuhr".

In the real world, computers are typically given names, usually strictly functional names or serials (such as accounting_server or fx98v4p), but also themed names, in order to allow for identification. Since even professionals (both fictional and real) struggle with pronunciation and identification of an obscure manufacturing code, pop culture naturally has a tendency to seep into the naming of products.

While it initially wasn't prevalent in fiction, writers and producers soon realized that naming computers was common practice, and proceeded to ramp it Up to Eleven it to make computer and robot names substantially more dramatic than groupings like Cleo, Tony and Jules note .

In order to make an AI seem sinister or awesome enough, a few themes are typically adhered to in movies and literature that can allow said AI be categorized into several groups:

This practice is Truth in Television. While more common in the era of Mainframes and Minicomputers, the practice of giving computers clever pet names still remains popular among hardcore computer enthusiasts and IT departments. In addition to using the same naming conventions already mentioned, there are several additional patterns found in the naming of real-world computers, servers, robots, and networks. As one might expect when certain personality types become involved, these can be a bit odd:
  • Names based off of the type of computer- essentially the modern form of the "Automatic Computer" name. For instance, Texas Tech's primary supercomputer is based on a Beowulf Cluster Stucture, and so was named Hrothgar after the king in Beowulf.
  • Theme Naming: When an individual builds a personal network or an organization has multiple large servers or supercomputers, they frequently give them themed names. There are several especially common themes:
    • ironically cute and/or completely absurd names like Sesame Street characters, brands of beer, and anime characters.
    • In Jokes like an astronomy lab having all of its servers named after obscure star names.
    • Specialties: For instance the HP Graphics lab's early 3d test beds "transform", "matrix", "raster", "jaggy", "spline", etc.

The Trope Namer is this page on the Portland Pattern Repository. Note that this trope is specifically about computers, robots, and AIs that are given abnormal titles; see Named Weapons, I Call It "Vera" and I Call Him "Mr. Happy" for other examples. Note that an aversion of this trope involves a bland AI in an extraordinary setting (e.g. a computer named "computer" in a high space opera setting).

See also Robot Names and NameTron. One Bad Mother also has enough examples to be a Sister Trope. Can overlap with What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?.

Examples in fiction:

  • Over its long run, Doctor Who has been all over this trope, from a war computer called WOTAN to the utilitarian Matrix (Gallifrey's equivalent of Star Trek's Memory Alpha) to mastermind AIs like BOSS and Mentalis and functionally-named robots like Kamelion and K-9. Ironically, arguably the most important AI in the series, the Doctor's TARDIS, has no known name at all.
    • According to series 6, it's "Sexy".
  • Halo uses a mixture of names without meaning and mundane names — Cortana, the UNSC AI, is named after the sword of Holger the Dane from The Song of Roland (thus a nod to Marathon's Durandal), but the Forerunner AIs have rather mundane, vaguely religious names like Guilty Spark and Mendicant Bias.
  • As mentioned above, Portal is based around a human's dealings with the master control computer of a giant laboratory complex, who is named GLaDOS. GLaDOS is obsessed with conducting science experiments and has a skewed sense of morality. It is implied that she killed all other humans in the complex, though likely as a self defense measure to prevent them switching her off.
    • In addition to GLaDOS's return, Portal 2 also features a major AI character named Wheatley, who is no more than a robotic ball who relies on transport rails or the player to take him where he needs to go.
  • Questionable Content's AnthroPCs generally have personal names (like Winslow and Momo-tan), though Pintsize is a somewhat jocular functional name and one-shot character PT410x (likely a serial number or, since PT410x was owner-constructed, a fanciful model number) eschews the very idea of a "slave name".
  • Star Trek, in general, tends to be surprisingly mundane — AIs tend to have personal names (Data, Lore, Vaal, Landru) or bear legacy names (Nomad, Voyager), and non-intelligent computers seldom have names at all. There is a scattering of model number, such as M-5 from the TOS episode "The Ultimate Computer". The Borg, though not computers, tend to have names/designations related to their location and function such as "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix 01."
  • The most intelligent IA in S.S.D.D is called The Oracle, he has two purposes: predicting the future and improving his performance predicting the future.
  • Short Circuit and Short Circuit 2 feature the military warrior robot Number 5, who develops a friendly and curious AI personality when he is struck by lightning. By the conclusion of the first movie he is tired of his sterile serial number name and decides to give himself a human name, henceforth becoming known as Johnny 5.
    • Not many people remember, but his proper factory name was SAINT Number 5. SAINT standing for: Strategic Artifically Intelligent Nuclear Transport.
  • Star Wars uses (and abuses) model number to a disturbing degree, given the rather small namespace that droids seem to have in that universe. Well, sometimes it does. The Star Wars Expanded Universe has many droids being given nicknames, particularly in the X-Wing Series where R2 and R5 droids are called things like Mynock, Whistler, Thirteen, Tonin, Gadget, Shiner, and Vape. Galaxy of Fear gives a computer an acronym name.
    • The Expanded Universe also has an annoying tendency to write out the serial numbers in the manner a first grader would. For example, 41D4 calls itself Forwundeefor. Likely halfhearted attempts at being like Artoo (R2-D2) and Threepio (C-3PO). At one point, Timothy Zahn played on this by creating a human character named Entoo Nee, who noted that people frequently assumed he was a droid.
  • Terminator has Skynet, but the individual Terminators don't have onscreen names, just model numbers.
  • Iron Man has several robots with names from Dummy and Butterfingers to JARVIS.
  • The Jetsons had a computer/robot named UNIBLAB and George's work computer, RUDI.
  • Albums by the band Big Black credited their TR-606 drum machine as a member of the band named "Roland." Later when the bass player quit to enter law school the band's press release stated the band was breaking up because Roland quit due to "creative differences."
    • Naming drum machines as if they were band members was not uncommon in bands of a certain vintage. Sisters of Mercy named theirs "Doktor Avalanche," and there's a persistent rumor (denied by the band) that "Echo" of Echo and the Bunnymen also refers to their electronic drummer.
  • Half-Life 2 and its expansions feature the burly robot "Dog". As the name implies, Dog was built to be a pet of Alyx Vance's. He understands human commands, but can not speak himself, communicating mostly through head gestures. Like a playful dog, Dog sometimes gets over excited and carried away and has to be told by Alyx to stop whatever he's doing.
  • In the Chaos Timeline, several AIs named themselves after random strings - three of them are called X27, a_gcl and Horace.
  • Doctor Blight on Captain Planet and the Planeteers had MAL.
  • Spongebob Squarepants has KAREN, Plankton's computer wife.
  • The unique computer from Monday Begins on Saturday, possibly intelligent and definitely having a soul, is called "Aldan" after a river in Siberia.
  • In the classic computer game System Shock, the villain is a corrupt AI computer named SHODAN, Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network. After being corrupted by the player character and developing a malevolent AI, SHODAN eliminates her human masters and begins a scheme to escape her space station home and transmit her personality into the computers of planet earth.
  • The Xanth series has a computer named Com Pewter.
  • EDI in Mass Effect is an acronym, with her name standing for Enhanced Defense Intelligence.
    • Legion, meanwhile, is both a fanciful-but-appropriate functional name. Since Geth had no concept of individuality, EDI contrived the Meaningful Name from Biblical mythology. While it is indeed an awesome name, it was intended to draw the parallel as a way to understand the Geth's gestalt consciousness.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Dr. Eva Core is named after a deceased companion of The Illusive Man, with the implication that she was something of a Replacement Goldfish for the original.
    • Speaking of Mass Effect, On the Shoulders of Giants almost universally employs name without meaning, ranging from fanciful to historically significant to indistinguishable from an organic being's given name.
  • IBM's first famous Chess-playing computer, Deep Thought, was named after the computer that designed Earth in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; IBM's later Deep Blue, the independently-developed Deep Fritz, and IBM's Blue Gene supercomputing products carried on the naming theme.
  • WOPR is the name of the military supercomputer in WarGames, standing for War Operation Plan Response. It was intended by the writers to be a more amusing name than that of NORAD's real-life SIOP (Single Integrated Operation Plan), although SIOP was a series of documents rather than a computer.
  • Red vs. Blue: The main AIs are named after the Greek alphabet. The first to be created is named Alpha, but the others' names are seemingly picked at random from the list, including Delta, Theta, Omega, Sigma...
    • There's also F.I.L.S.S., Freelancer Integrated Logistics and Security System, pronounced "Phyllis." Otherwise known as Sheila.
  • There are not a lot of AIs in the Whateley Universe because of the ongoing threat of The Palm, but Loophole has an illegal AI named Carmen. Most disturbingly, the voice and holographic image for Carmen are modeled after the mutant who raped her.
  • CABAL or Computer Assisted Biologically Augmented Lifeform in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and its expansion. As its name implies, it uses People Jars to power it and at the Nod ending of Firestorm it shows that it's keeping Kane alive. There's also LEGION from the third game's expansion Kane's Wrath though it's never stated what the acronym means.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: The three NERV mainframes are called Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar after the Three Wise Men.
  • First Universal Cybernetic-Kinetic Ultramicro-Programmer or FUCKUP in Illuminatus!.
  • Erwin from User Friendly. Overall benevolent, unless you're Steff the marketing VP. But, well, Steff's an asshole.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has a functional name: Roofus the roof-repairing robot. And although it was nonsentient, there was also the Ultra-Ballistaroid: a steam-powered transforming ballista made of snow. Molly built and named them.
  • In Marathon, there doesn't seem to be a theme: among them, Durandal (Roland's sword from "Song of Roland"), Tycho (presumably after the astronomer), Thoth (Egyptian mythology), and Leela (pre-dates Futurama by nearly a decade)
  • W.O.T.A.N. in Luther Arkwright is the supercomputer used on parallel 00.00.00 to keep track of events on other parallels in The Multiverse.
  • The supercomputer Xenon is a Type VI and has no meaning other than sounding exotic.
  • RA Lafferty has the recurring character of Epiktistes the Ktistec Machine.
  • T.W.I.T, the on-board computer of Fluff Catt's shuttle transporter in The Space Gypsy Adventures. Ostensibly, the name stands for Terminal of Waveline Interception and Transmission. In reality, Fluff calls it that because it is one!
  • Hex, the Clock Punk Magitek computer of Unseen University in the Discworld novels. In Real Life, it's a play on "hex", meaning spell, and "hexidecimal". In-Universe, it seems to have that name because that's the sort of name a computer should have, and much of Hex's construction was based on this principle, even if the wizards didn't know why, or even what a computer was.
  • Defenders of the Earth has Dynak-X and Octon, both of whom regularly keep the Defenders or Ming (accordingly) informed of what is happening in the opposing camp.

Examples In Real Life

  • The real-life Shub-Internet was named after a joke in the Jargon File and operated as a server in the Pentagon for a number of years. Obviously a very silly name without meaning, relating to the Internet's origins as a US Defense Department project.
  • The first ISP in Russia,, went online in 1989 and was used, among other things, as a news relay during the August Coup in 1991. It shares a name with DEMOS, a Unix clone developed at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in the early 80s; if was actually a DEMOS system at the time, that would make it a rather lame mix of acronym and functional name. (But one with one hell of a history behind it.) note 
  • NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers were named in a student essay competition; the winner was a third grader, originally from Russia, named Sofi Collis.
  • Carnegie Mellon University's servers for computer science courses are named after fish ("flounder", "grouper", "kingfish", etc.), as is the tradition for Intel engineers. Over time, the 'fish machines' became replaced by more powerful 'shark machines' ("angelshark", "bambooshark", "baskingshark", etc.), both fitting the naming tradition and their increase in size and speed.
  • Reddit allows users to name its servers if the user purchased Reddit Gold on a day Reddit hit its Reddit Gold goal. The names tend to reference pop-culture, recent news, memes, or puns.