What's Not in a Name?
Misnomer of the Twentieth Century

Excerpt from Sophistication: How to get it...then what! 
Copyright ©1995 by Paul Niquette, all rights reserved.
Computer Science The observation, identification, description, investigation, and theoretical explanation of devices that compute, specially electronic machines used for performing high-speed mathematical or logical calculations or assembling, storing, correlating, or otherwise processing and printing information derived from coded data in accordance with a predetermined program.

Sometime during the middle of the Twentieth Century, 'Computer Science' was born. Diapered and drooling, it scampered through the halls of academe, demanding attention. In naming the infant, somebody was not sophisticated.

    One thing about computers was not taken into account: They don't compute! Not in the traditional sense anyway.
Only the smallest fraction of a computer's time and resources are devoted to "performing high-speed mathematical or logical calculations..." Computers are nearly always engaged in "...otherwise processing...information." ComputersAdmittedly there are some computers that compute:
  • big old 'mainframes' ~~ like what you put around the picture but not the picture itself,
  • 'super-minis' ~~~~~~ an oxymoron, if anybody ever took time to chuckle about it,
  • 'workstations' ~~~ there's a user-unfriendly term ("Stay in one place and work, damn it!").
'Number crunchers', we still call them. Even so, their real power is consumed in the shuffling of information into and out of files and memories. Truth be known: When it comes to crunching, MIPS (millions of instructions per second) are generally less important than FAPS (file accesses per second).

Control is by software, itself a labyrinth of information processing functions. And processing, for the most part, means movement.

Hah! The computer is a 'bytemobile.' Which reminds me...

    Inside the automobile, a small device measures the distance passing and, together with the time elapsing, computes miles-per-hour. But there's much more to the automobile than its speedometer. In proportion to other functions, a computer computes about as much as your car computes.
Besides, isn't it customary to name sciences for broad categories of investigation, not just one application of the consequent knowledge?
    Using the expression 'Computer Science' to denote the study of information processing is tantamount to calling 'Mechanical Engineering' 'Automobile Science.'
That we can do better is hardly in doubt. Consider the hundreds of company names that have been invented in this field. How many of the following contrivances -- all adapted from company names (vintage late '80s) -- might have served to name the science?
    Acromatics, Actronics, Alcyonics, Algorics, Alphamerics, Alphametrics, Alphanetics, Anistics, Autronics, Autokonics, Benedatics, Benetics, Bytelics, Bytronics, Codarics, Compumatics, Conetics, Contelics, Corticology, Datamatics, Datamation, Datatechnology, Data Trek Science, Databytics, Dataflow Science, Datafusion, Datalogics, Datamytology, Datanetics, Dataphasics, Dataphilosophy, Datatechnology, Dataworks, Datransics, Diginetics, Dyatronics, Dynax Science, Dytronics, Electrodata Science, Execuflow Systems, Genamation, Genutronics, Infocraft, Infodata Systems, Infologic, Infometrics, Infospherics, Informatics, Infotechnology, Omnimation, Promation, Savantics, Velobytics.
'Informatics' is my personal favorite, even though it belongs to a company. After all, so does 'Computer Science.' The French apparently agree (Informatique).

As for the computer itself, we might have considered such candidates as these:

    anatron, aptron, byter, cognitron, conteler, cortexer, cybertron, datatron, databyter, datajam, datawork, dynatron, flexidata, geobyte, heuritron, metabyter, maxibyter, novabyter, omnibyter, panatron, parabyter, polybyter, solutron, spectrabyter, synertron, trilobyter, velobyter, vitatron, xenobyter.
Most fitting, in my opinion, is 'booler,' honoring George Boole (1815-1865), the English mathematician who helped to establish modern symbolic logic. Where, I ask you, would the computer be today were it not for Boolean Algebra? Booler is short and easy to spell.
    The verb forms of 'to boole' sound neat, too: 'booling,' 'booled.'
Too late to change, of course. But back in the fifties, we might have said, "Think I'll drop by the campus and visit the Informatics Department. I have some last minute booling to do." Today, a typical 'informatician' would 'boole' at home on his or her 'personal booler.'
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For more lamentations about the language of The Software Age, see Mukashi. The sophisticated reader intent upon replacing myths with realities may want to take a cybergander at Software Does Not Fail. Finally, there's the ironic history in Softword relevant to the term 'software' itself. {Return}