What’s in a name?

The story behind ‘Eletype’

We are frequently asked about the origins of the name ‘Eletype’. There are two reasons: One is very thoughtful, the other is very practical.

A few years ago I read the much publicized Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson (and by ‘read’ I mean ‘listened to’. Perhaps the only good thing about Atlanta traffic is I get to take full advantage of my Audible subscription). Due to his untimely death, everyone was understandably intrigued by the Steve Jobs story, but I was also fascinated by the rest Isaacson’s biographies and that led me to the lesser known story about Bill Gates contained in his earlier work The Innovators.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen on a Teletype 33 in the 1970's

As the story goes when Gates was in the eighth grade he bought a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school’s students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine.

Twenty years later, in the early 1990’s, BASIC was my first programming language as well, but by this point we were connecting the local BBS using 8088’s and 1200 baud modems, not a Teletype machine. The machines were different, but almost all of the early, and much of modern, computing is based on the standards and protocols developed using these early teletype machines.

My partner Brian and I, not only loved this history, but thought it might make for a great company name.

What if we dropped the ‘T’?

…you mean like Eletype?

Yes. Has a nice ring to it.

It does.

Eletype had a nice ring to it.

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Now for the practical reasons:

We didn’t know what we were going to build yet, so we needed a name that didn’t bind us to a product or service.

We didn’t want to go with the [VERB][NOUN] company name generator. We felt those company names had been exhausted and were becoming homogenous and indistinguishable.

And we definitely didn’t want an indecipherable Web 2.0 name that was either unpronounceable or had all of the vowels rmvd frm thm or exxtra consonanttts adddded to themm.

What is Teletype?

We also wanted a ‘.com’ address. At this point we didn’t realize that ‘.io’ was the new hotness, but we grew up in the 1990’s, so gosh darn-it, we wanted a ‘.com’!

Not only was Eletype available as a ‘.com’ but all of the socials were also available! The trademark was available and, as a bonus, we got https://elety.pe as a short URL. (if you’ve ever tried to secure a .com for your company you know how maddening it can when you discover that essentially every domain is being used or squatted on)

Picking a company name really can be one of the most fun and most frustrating things a founding team gets to do. It often feels like a disproportional amount of effort goes into picking something as inconsequential as a name. But, we lucked out in the end.

So that is the story. The name Eletype pays homage to early computing, it’s unique, it had an available .com domain, and much to our surprise, what we actually built as a Slack App is remarkable similar to how early software engineers used a Teletype machine to interface with a mainframe.

And Eletype has a nice ring to it.

Michael Sengbusch

CEO and co-founder

Eletype Inc.

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