From Amazon’s Kindle to the TiVo

Shakespeare once asked what’s in a name, and while a name shouldn’t matter if an innovation is great, having a cool moniker certainly doesn’t hurt.

When I first started hearing the term TiVo long ago, I first thought it was pronounced TiBo, but it is indeed a really cool, catchy name no matter how you pronounce it. Kindle’s also an intriguing name for a tablet or e-reader, and they were both coined by Michael Cronan, a graphic designer and marketing executive who just passed away at the age of 61.

As the New York Times notes, Cronan came up with the names ten years apart from each other. In early 1997, there was a new way of recording TV, and Cronan’s mission was to come up with a name for it. There were apparently 1,600 possible names ultimately narrowed down to 800, then they were whittled down to 100. (Among the monikers that didn’t make it were Bongo and Lasso). 

Whatever name they settled on, it had to have TV in it, and as Cronan recalled, “I started looking at letter combinations, and pretty quickly settled on TiVo.” Cronan came up with Vo because it was similar to “voice” or “vocal.” 

As for Kindle, Cronan was contacted by Amazon ten years later to come up with a name, and he decided on Kindle because as Cronan’s wife told the Times, he “wanted to create something small, humble,” and the hope that reading books via downloading would be akin to “starting a fire.” 

Whatever names these technologies wound up with, even if they wound up with Bongo or Lasso, they would still be great innovations. But thankfully Michael Cronan gave both TiVo and Kindle great handles, and we’re thankful for creating these terrific new terms for the technology lexicon.