Unlike Jeff Bridges, Tron can’t hide it’s age

As entertainingly spruced up and spiffed out as the digital effects and graphics are in “Tron: Legacy”, the movie is an artifact from the past.

Just as the lines on Jeff Bridges’ face tell us how much time as past since Tron first appeared in 1982, the name also dates it.

Biodigital jazz, man.

Tron belongs to an era that began in the early 1960s. The space race was on and electronics and computers were linked with rocket technology.

In his book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Princeton professor Burton G. Malkiel remembers the “tronics boom” of the time when companies thought investors would be attracted to any name reminiscent of electronics and the space age.

Monsell, a New Jersey-based maker of mechanical equipment, changed its name to K-Tron International in 1964 hoping to escape the gravitational pull of its founder’s name. Others followed.

“There were a host of ‘trons’ such as Astron, Dutron, Vulcatron, and Transitron, and a number of ‘onics’ such as Circuitronics, Supronics, Videotronics, and several Electrosonics companies”, writes Malkiel. “Leaving nothing to chance, one group put together the winning combination of Powertron Ultrasonics.”

Tron wouldn’t sound too out of place today in Toy Story as Buzz Lightyear’s younger brother. Technology eras and naming trends come and go. The wireless era had a myriad of companies with cell and tel names. We had the dot coms of the Internet era. And now we have Solexa, Solexant, Soliant, Solaris, Solarmer, Solarwatt, etc. of the solar era.

Two of the most recent and biggest trends in computing – open-source software and cloud computing – have been accompanied by some of the most generic naming conventions ever.

For open source, as Matt Asay points out in CNET News, it has become a requirement to include “source” in the company name – XenSource, MuleSource, SpringSource, SourceSense, Sourcefire, etc.

It's getting cloudy

Already, there’s a telling shift in the market. As open source goes mainstream companies don’t seem to be appending source to their names as much anymore . Instead, it’s cloud-computing companies that are eager to tack a “cloud” badge to their name – Cloudant, Cloudkick, Cloudshore, Cloudswitch, CloudSource. This too shall pass very quickly.

Technology companies are founded by visionary engineers who think it’s all about the technology; it will sell itself, just put it in the name of the company. So we get generations of soundalike names, layered on top of each other like stratified fossils.

Technologies soon become commodities. Yesterday’s breakthrough is today’s standard. Categories are created, and they are dominated by brands, as Apple, Amazon, Verizon, Cisco and Oracle testify.

But see the movie.

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