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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

How Canon Chooses Camera Names

When I was a freelancer in D.C. and had to drive all over everywhere for various jobs, I used to do a comic schtick about the roads in Virginia. There are basically three statutes on the books in that State concerning the naming of roads. One is that each road must be given both a name and a number, and if the name appears on maps, the number must be placed on road signs; if the number is on the maps, then the name has to be on all the road signs. Rule number two is that major continuous roads must be given several names, so that what "road" you are "on" depends on where you are along it. And the third is that roads can only be built without following rules 1. and 2. if they are laid out along colonial cow paths.

The purpose of these rules is very simple: CONFUSE THE YANKEES. If you weren't born in Virginia, the Virginians don't want you to be able to find your way around.

Canon Camera Corporation of Japan is following a naming protocol for its digital cameras that is somewhat similar. First, a committee of five illiterate immigrant day-laborers are given an alphabet of about nine letters and six digits from which to build a number of proposed names for new products. The most sensible ones are then immediately discarded. The aim seems to be (although I am not certain of this; it just appears this way) that if you are not a loyal Canon customer who spends several hours every week lovingly poring over Canon product literature or online information, Canon doesn't want you to be able to distinguish between different Canon products. This is believed to foster brand loyalty by making lack of confusion an "insider" privilege.

As a final test, a metal band is placed around the head of a Rhesus monkey. The band is tightened until the monkey is in severe pain; he is then shown the proposed new product name on a flash card and has to pick it out from among several flash cards of nearly identical names posted on a wall; not until he picks the right one is the band loosened and his pain relieved. Only if it takes him three or more tries does the name pass the test—if he is able to do it on either the first or second try, it's back to the drawing board for the five day-laborer guys.

So far this method of product naming has resulted in such wonderfully senseless names as the 1Ds Mk. II N; a designation actually identical to one in use by a competing company at the time, the 5D; and now the 30D, which is close enough to the old "D30" designation that it nearly killed the monkey.

Somewhere down the line, we are sure to get the 3D0, the D03, and the 03D; the 60D, D10, and New 1Ds Mk. II N, at which point the name of the old 1Ds Mk. II N will be retroactively changed to 1Ds Mk. II O ("O" for old). I, for one, can't wait.


* Satire Alert. This alert is provided as a courtesy for verbally tone-deaf and non-native English speaking readers.

Featured Comment: skpatton writes, "Actually, I think 5 illiterate immigrants would have done much better; it took several highly degreed, highly paid managers to do this."


Blogger eolake said...

Are you serious about the Virginia rules??

1:27 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

This was hilarious, thanks.

Apple Computer is doing much better... they decided in the late nineties to stop giving new products actually different names. So a "Powerbook" is always a Powerbook. To distinquish the models in technical literature, they put things in brackets after the name, like "Powerbook G3 (bronze keyboard)" and "Power Mac G4 (mirrored drive doors)". I am not kidding, these are actual examples!

1:34 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Hi ES, no, not serious about the Virginia rules...and actually, I had not lived in Waukesha, Wisc. at that time...there is actually an intersection in downtown Waukesha where 5 different streets come together at a circle where there was an old bandstand. Legend has it that at one time, for three days or so, ALL FIVE of the incoming streets that converged on the bandstand were one-way! It's all been changed now (even the bandstand has been relocated) but the old local joke is, "The only reason anybody lives here is that they come here and then can't find their way back out."

Oh, and the bit about the cow-path is based on a true story. There is a road in the Maryland suburbs of DC that was alleged to have been a cow path in colonial times, which became a foot-path, then a cart-path, then an unpaved carriage road, and finally a paved road for automobiles. And you cannot drive its aimlessly wandering contours without believing the story, either....


2:53 PM  
Blogger karavane said...

Priceless...thanks for the big smile.


11:59 AM  
Blogger skpatton said...

Actually, I think 5 illiterate immigrants would have done much better; it took several highly degreed, highly paid managers to do this.

1:29 PM  
Blogger JimDesu said...

What do you mean? The thing with the roads is absolutely true! If you're in Virginia and don't know that Chain Bridge Road is 123, you're totally screwed. It's just like they renamed townes to confuse the Yankees too (No-one pronounces the "u" in Staunton).

Just $0.02

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praise Michael Reichmann for leading me to this blog. I'm a Nikon man myself (hope that doesn't get me kicked out of here), but if only the D200 banding fanatics would handle that issue with the same kind of humor you show towards the Canon naming game the world would be a better place

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minolta is nice too. They also managed to create a DSLR named 5D which is called Maxxum 5D in America, Dynax 5D in Europe and Alpha 5D in Asia. Even better, since their merging with Konica, the company name is now Konica-Minolta so if someone ask you "Which 5D? The Canon or the Nikon?" you can proudly respond "Not at all! a Konica-Minolta Maxxum/Dynax/Alpha 5D"

Did you know that a surprisingly amount of the most famous killers had multiple names (e.g Lee Harvey Oswalds, )? That could explain why Konica-Minolta just killed its digital camera business.

2:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, no, it's easy. D stands for Digital. So far, so good. The number is the "resolution": D30, 3mp, D60, 3mp. But that's for the "consumer" version. 1D (and 1Ds) that's where the D for Digital is appened. Because it's the pro version. Except when you make a pro SLR that kind of affordable. like the 10D, 20D, 30D, which are not 10, 20 or 30 mp. And this is totally different form the consumer line, called Rebel here, Kiss there and 300D elsewhere (no it's not 300 mp)
My 350D is called a Rebel XT, and that's what counts.
The point is that they all take Canon lenses with an EF mount. Some do take EF-S mount lenses. S stands for Digital, of course. I'm not sure which one can.

1:12 AM  
Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

You're right, that WAS simple, really. So now I'm simply confused. ;-)

And I thought MY blog was funnily satirical! (Well, actually, I still think so.) But this here article makes me proud to be your Blogger colleague. I hereby declare it an official masterpiece.

Oh, and the C.E.O. of Nikon wanted me to discretely pass along this little personal message:
Domo arigato, Johnston-san. A most excellent job in leaking the insider information that our professional code forbids us from publishing directly. Truly, your nickname, Katana-Quill, is well deserved! Your Nikon Marvel Infinity Reborn Crisis Alternate #1' Cover Uncanny Pro Edition Excelsior No-Prize [Mirca1'Cupeen®] is in the mail. With deluxe VJA [velvet-jade-amber] finish, as promised. Sayonara, honorable Mikinja.

6:43 PM  

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