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Think in the Box: IBM SyNAPSE Brand Name Review

Let’s just say you came up with a computer chip that was able to mimic the thought processes of the human brain. That’s exactly what IBM is trying to do. What name could they give for this seemingly impossible feat? iBrain? CPyou? Microprofessor? Smartificial Intelligence? Yep, I can go on and on. They are in fact calling the project SyNAPSE.

The first thing that struck me and probably you is the unusual capitalization. I’ve seen “camel case“ names where capital letters in the middle of the word look like a camel hump, e.g., WikiLeaks, iPhone, MySpace, FaceTime, OnStar, McDonald’s. But this almost looks like an inverted camel case because of the lower case letter in the middle of a bunch of caps. Upon further reading, I learned that SyNAPSE is actually an acronym for Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics. Whoa, there’s a mouthful. That explains the capitalization. But isn’t the point of an acronym to be short? Can a seven-letter word really qualify as an acronym? SyNAPSE seems like more of a macronym if you ask me.

When I get over the distracting visual appearance of SyNAPSE and focus on the spoken word, things get a lot better. I get it – the name supports the idea of a complex network of neurons. This is potentially a huge improvement over traditional linear computing. It reminds me of the phrase “neurons firing” and seems like an aspirational way to refer to a shift in the role of computers. The name is also broad enough to cover a range of future possibilities for IBM to explore. Also, the first syllable “Sy” recalls words like cyber and sci-fi, giving the name a nice techy edge.

The drawn out full name, supersystems-of-neurodynamic-advancedacceleration-pyroparticle-spectrometer-electromagnetics (that’s what it sounded like to me), will probably be forgotten if these chips do make it to market. Then we just have to pray that one of the Big Blue execs decides to normalize the capitalization to Synapse, not SyNapse (camel-casing should only be used when it makes sense – not just to look cool).

In the end, SyNAPSE gets our praise for a relevant, aspirational name and our scorn for the crazy capitalization. Besides, human-like computing is well and good, but when are they going to come up with a chip that works out and cleans the bathroom for me?

Overall Grade: B

All trademarks & logos are the intellectual property of their respective companies and hereby acknowledged.

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Posted: Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 at 10:07 am

Leena Mehta

Seasoned brand manager, mover-and-shake-things-upper

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