How 16 Electronics Companies Got Their Names

A Kodak van in 1911
A Kodak van in 1911
Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Most of us spend a lot of time staring at a computer or TV screen, playing video games, or gabbing into our cell phones. The brand names for these products are all familiar, but where did they come from in the first place? Just what is a Nokia? Here's a look at the origins of some of your favorite tech and gadget companies' names.

1. Kodak: Founder George Eastman named the camera and film corporation in 1888. Eastman wanted a short name that was easy to pronounce and could only refer to his products. He later said that he favored the letter "k" because it "seems a strong, incisive sort of letter." Once Eastman decided he wanted the name to start and end with "k," he played around with combinations of letters until he found one that he liked in "Kodak."

2. Nintendo: Nintendo's name translates into English as "leave luck to heaven." The name made more sense before Nintendo got into the video game business; it opened in 1889 to make hanafuda cards, a type of Japanese playing cards decorated with floral designs.

3. Sony: When Sony got its start in 1946, it had a decidedly less catchy name, "Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo." Within a few years, the company's founders wanted a new name, so they combined sonus, Latin for "sound," with "Sonny," the term of endearment for a young boy. The newly coined word captured both the superior sound quality and small size the company was shooting for with its products.

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

4. Sega: Sega got its start in Hawaii in 1940 as Standard Games, a business that provided military bases with pinball machines to help amuse soldiers. In 1951, the company moved to Tokyo and renamed itself "Service Games" to reflect its business of importing coin-op machines for American military bases. In 1965, Service Games merged with another coin-op company, Rosen Enterprises, and shortened its name to Sega.

5. Nokia: The modern telecom giant hasn't always been involved in such tech-heavy fields. The company got its start in Tampere, Finland, in 1865 as a pulp mill and paper manufacturer. When owner Fredrik Idestam opened a second plant in Nokia, Finland, in 1868, he decided the town's name would suit his company, too.

The town takes its name from the Nokianvirta River that flows through it, which in turn takes its name from an archaic Finnish word referring to the small furry animals, mostly sables, which lived on the river's banks.

6. Cisco Systems: The recent addition to the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes its name from San Francisco, where it was founded in 1984.

Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

7. Atari: The video game pioneer takes its name from the board game Go. In Go, atari is a term that indicates that a player's stone (or group of a player's stones) are in immediate danger of being captured by the player's opponent.

8. Toshiba: Toshiba formed following the 1939 merger of consumer products company Tokyo Denki with machinery firm Shibaura Seisakusho. By taking the "To" from the former and the "Shiba" from the latter, a new company name was born.

9. Sanyo: Sanyo's name means "three oceans" in Japanese; the company's founder wanted to sell his wares across the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans to reach the entire world.

10. Seiko: The watchmaker takes its name from a Japanese word meaning "exquisite" or "success."

A replica of a 1935 Kwanon cameraMorio, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

11. Canon: When Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory started developing Japan's first-ever 35mm camera equipped with a focal plane shutter, the engineers dubbed the creation "Kwanon" after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. At this point the company's logo even included the thousand-armed goddess.

When the camera was ready to roll out worldwide in 1935, the company decided to tweak the name to "Canon" so it would be easier for international markets to accept.

12. Sharp: The electronics manufacturer got its start in 1912 as metalsmith Tokuji Hayakawa's personal outlet for his inventions, including a specialized snap buckle. In 1915 Hayakawa invented an improved mechanical pencil he dubbed Ever-Sharp, and to honor the fine point of his creation, Hayakawa started calling his company "Sharp."

13. Magnavox: The stalwart electronics company began in 1915 when Edwin Pridham and Peter Jensen created a moving-coil loudspeaker, which they named "Magnavox," Latin for "great voice."

14. Coleco: The video game kingpins of the 1970s and 80s (and the people who brought you Cabbage Patch Dolls!), Coleco was originally a company that sold shoe leather. The name Coleco is a shortening of "Connecticut Leather Company."

15. Motorola: Founder Paul Galvin named his company in a twist on the old naming convention of putting "-ola" at the end of phonograph and radio names like the Victrola. Since Galvin and his company were making car radios, he merged "motor" with "-ola" to get the name.

16. Samsung: Samsung got its start in 1938 when Lee Byung-Chull started the "Samsung Store" in Korea. The store initially focused on exporting dried fish and fruit, but it jumped into electronics in the 1960s. The name Samsung is Korean for "three stars," a nod to the lucky properties of the number three.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Adorable Products You Can Buy for International Sloth Day

Amazon
Amazon

It’s that time of the year again, folks—the time when we all collectively lose our chill over a slow-moving, two- or three-toed mammal with an adorable squeak and poop that defies physics. That’s right: International Sloth Day is on October 20. Here’s a list of must-have coloring books, onesies, and Christmas sweaters that you can pick up to showcase your love of one of the internet's favorite animals.

1. Cuddly Microwaveable Sloth; $20

Intelex/Amazon

Warm your heart and your body with a plush sloth that doubles as a soothing heating pad. The toy is filled with millet grains and dried French lavender, a combination intended to help you get to sleep easier.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Hanging Ceramic Sloth Planter; $18

FattyBee/Amazon

This flower planter pulls double duty, communicating both your love of sloths and your appreciation for plants. And it makes a tasteful piece of hanging home decor, too.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Sloth Coloring Book; $7

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform/Amazon

Sloths themselves are already works of art, but you’d be forgiven for wanting a few more sloth-related crafts in your life. Now you can make your own masterpiece with this detailed coloring book. All you'll need are some colored pencils and you'll be ready to go.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Farting Sloth Coloring Book; $7

M & L Coloring Books/Amazon

But maybe traditional coloring books aren’t your thing. You’re in luck: Amazon sells a coloring book for the crowd that both loves sloths and laughs a little too much at farts.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Sloth Socks; $14

Good Luck Socks/Amazon

These socks are ideal for people who might not want to wear their love of sloths out in the open but are very comfortable showing it off on their ankles.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Sloth Onesie; $40

Tipsy Elves/Amazon

No list of sloth-related products would be complete without a cozy onesie, and this one from Tipsy Elves is perfect for either pajamas or a last-minute Halloween costume. This onesie even comes with zippered pockets and cuddly sloth claws!

Buy it: Amazon

7. Sloth-Themed Ugly Christmas Sweater; $69

Tipsy Elves/Amazon

Why not celebrate the upcoming holiday season with this sloth-themed ugly Christmas sweater? You’re sure to be the hit of any holiday pub crawl or office Christmas party.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Sloth Mug; $10

LOZACH/Amazon

Embrace your inner sloth and declare your lazy feelings along with your morning cup of coffee.

Buy it: Amazon

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This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.