Why so many early video-game companies had names starting with A

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/01/18/why-so-many-early-video-game-companies-had-names-starting-with-a.html


I was going to guess be first in the phonebook, but this is sort of the same thing.


Yeah, you used to see the same shenanigans in phone books - white pages and yellow pages - for ALL types of businesses; “A1 Movers” “Aaabsolute Nutrition” etc, and a few out of the box thinkers who deliberately punted themselves to the end of the list with names like “Zeal House Painting” or “Zulu Publishing”

In other words, it’s all just basically SEO 1.0, when the only ‘S’ option available is strictly alphabetical.


My brother named his short-lived auto repair service Aardvark Automotive to cash in on this trend. It didn’t work.


So that’s why the Atarj platform never caught on!


My smutty online stories starting with A gain the most views but not necessarily the most votes. Sad.


Someone locally worked hard at being the last in the phone book. So it was like zzzeke. I seem to recall he had to add an extra “z” at some point to get to the end again.

The guy has a real name, I forget what, but he used “zzzeke” for his art gallery, and then in a podcast, and onkine, all I think came after his decision to be last in the phone book.

Not quite the same thing, but beats competing with the A’s, and “I’m last in the phonebook” is easy to remember.


Our local phone company used to combat this by calling the client. If they didn’t answer " A A A A A Roofing" they wouldn’t list them that way

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But what if the first five A’s are silent?


Can’t help thinking of those legendary software houses like “Delta 4”, " Bug Bite “, " Mastertronic” and “Magnetic Scrolls”. Classics on the ol’ ZX Spectrum. Wait a minute! ZX…?

path to enlightenment


I was told many aeons ago that ZX stood for the Z80 processor with ‘X’ being ‘a mystery ingredient’ - presumably whatever undead substance they used for the keyboards.

As for old software names - Melbourne House, Llamasoft, Gremlin, Level 9 and of course -
Imagine with all its airbrushed logos and televised bankruptcy.

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And lo! Abou Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Edit: this is an Isaac Asimov reference. He told the story of getting in trouble in school when his class studied that Leigh Hunt poem. The teacher asked why Abou’s name led all the rest, and young Isaac said, “alphabetical order”

On a slight tangent, the whole SEO grift annoys me with its central premise that you should give money to some Tony Robbins graduate to fail to trick your way into the top of Google’s search results, instead of, you know, paying Google to actually achieve that outcome, which is the entire purpose of their business.

Apple and Altos at one end, Zilog and Zenith (*) at the other, and in-between was Processor Technology aka Proctology. And mainframers sometimes referred to IBM as ABM, y’know, the the missiles. So there’s that.

(*) Among others, I possessed a Zenith Z89 as well as a Sinclair ZX-81. Zzzzzz…

There was also the ZZZZ hack of getting listed last in the phone book. Search around for the wonderful story of the ZZZZ Best carpet cleaning company.

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But this specific story was about video games.That just happens to put Apple in the right place.

But your examples point out that companies chose other criteria. Pick a distinctive name, people probably remember it even if they have to thumb through the directory.

But there were groupings of similar names, which did cause confusion. Mos Technology is not the same as Mostek, but people confused them. There were at least two Digital Research, Gary Kikdall’s company that made CP/M, and also an advertiser in Byte. There was the Jupiter Ace (looked like a ZX-81, but ran FORTH), but also the Wavemate Jupiter.

It’s surely a wild coincidence that so many early computer and games companies are ‘A’ names. Alan Michael Sugar at least has a good excuse for calling his company AMS Trading Limited.

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