The Naming of Vaxen

(written '87?; Webbed 3/98)

With apologies to T. S. Eliot

The naming of Vaxen is difficult, risky,

For there can be n different names for a Vax;

And at first you may think that I’ve had too much whiskey

When I tell you that’s one among many odd facts.

First of all there’s the name that the mailers send mail on,

Such as Swatsun—except that that isn’t a Vax—

Such as CAMPUS or SWARTHMR or SWAT colon colon;

All of them helping the mailers leave tracks.

There are names for the smaller machines, and the sweeter;

Some for the PCs and some for the Macs:

Like SE, PC/AT, NeXT, or Amiga—

There’s silliness there that a Dec machine lacks.

I tell you a Vax needs a name that’s sensational,

A name for a server, a name without peer;

Else how can it keep up its tasks operational,

And log in its users from nodes far and near?

There are names that are numbers (don’t use them for fun),

Names like those used by some Internet hacks:

“One thirty dot fifty-eight sixty-four one”—

Names that never belonged to more than one Vax.

But nine new computers arrive soon, I tell you,

And they all need names too—it’s really a mess;

Domains like "dot campus dot swarthmore dot edu"

Just don’t sound that great (though they work, I confess).

When you can’t get a prompt from your lagging Decstation,

The reason is sure to be always the same:

Its users are locked in mad argumentation

On the type, and the sort, and the kind, of its name.

Its relevant, spellable,

Widely diversible,

Pleasing-to-everyone, singular Name.


I think it was around the beginning of my sophomore year at Swarthmore when the computing center obtained a set of Dec workstations. There was much debate over what to name the machines; it was the major topic of discussion on the computing center’s electronic bulletin boards for a while. I wanted to name the systems after cats from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, and figured the best way to sway people to my opinion was to write it up in verse... (After the above verse, I included a list of cat names from that book.) Alas, my suggestion was ignored.