Choosing a name for your computer (RFC1178)
Original Publication Date: 1990-Aug-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2019-Feb-11
Internet Society Requests For Comment (RFCs)
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. [Also FYI 5.]
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.
Libes [Page 1]
RFC 1178 Name Your Computer August 1990
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 often incorrect.
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 later, a new machine was acquired to help with some of the processing. Needless to say, it couldn’t be called "shop" as well. Indeed, both machines ended up performing more specific tasks, allowing more precision in naming. A year later, five new machines were installed and...