Choosing a name for your computer (RFC1178)
Original Publication Date: 1990-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2000-Sep-12
Internet Society Requests For Comment (RFCs)
In order to easily distinguish between multiple computers, we give them names. Experience has taught us that it is as easy to choose bad names as it is to choose good ones. This essay presents guidelines for deciding what makes a name good or bad.
Network Working Group D. Libes
Request for Comments: 1178 Integrated Systems Group/NIST
FYI: 5 August 1990
Choosing a Name for Your Computer
Status of this Memo
This FYI RFC is a republication of a Communications of the ACM
article on guidelines on what to do and what not to do when naming
your computer . This memo provides information for the Internet
community. It does not specify any standard.
Distribution of this memo is unlimited.
In order to easily distinguish between multiple computers, we give
them names. Experience has taught us that it is as easy to choose
bad names as it is to choose good ones. This essay presents
guidelines for deciding what makes a name good or bad.
Keywords: domain name system, naming conventions, computer
administration, computer network management
As soon as you deal with more than one computer, you need to
distinguish between them. For example, to tell your system
administrator that your computer is busted, you might say, "Hey Ken.
Goon is down!"
Computers also have to be able to distinguish between themselves.
Thus, when sending mail to a colleague at another computer, you might
use the command "mail libes@goon".
In both cases, "goon" refers to a particular computer. How the name
is actually dereferenced by a human or computer need not concern us
here. This essay is only concerned with choosing a "good" name. (It
is assumed that the reader has a basic understanding of the domain
name system as described by .)
By picking a "good" name for your computer, you can avoid a number of
problems that people stumble over again and again.
Here are some guidelines on what NOT to do.
Don't overload other terms already in common use.
Using a word that has strong semantic implications in the
current context will cause confusion. This is especially true
in conversation where punctuation is not obvious and grammar is
For example, a distributed database had been built on top of
several computers. Each one had a different name. One machine
was named "up", as it was the only one that accepted updates.
Conversations would sound like this: "Is up down?" and "Boot
the machine up." followed by "Which machine?"
While it didn't take long to catch on and get used to this
zaniness, it was annoying when occasionally your mind would
stumble, and you would have to stop and think about each word
in a sentence. It is as if, all of a sudden, English has
become a foreign language.
Don't choose a name after a project unique to that machine.
A manufacturing project had named a machine "shop" since it was
going to be used to control a number of machines on a shop
floor. A while...