Salem’s Fire #19: X-itis


When the beta of the long awaited patch was announced, I was one of many who breathed a deep sigh of relief. My reasons, though, may have been a little different than most. I was rejoicing at the name alone. Simple. To the point. 1.10. No extra letters to clutter things up. The name of the patch indicated that, for a time a least, Blizzard would continue to avoid the plague that has swept over the gaming world, indeed over the entire tech world, in recent years. I have named this dreadful curse… x-itis.

What is this fearful disease? It is the irrational use of the letter X in the names of tech products, such as operating systems, games, and devices. For instance, the name of Microsoft?s game console is the XBox. I imagine that nine-tenths of my readers have no clue why there is an X in XBox. I imagine Bill Gates himself has no good reason for that X being there. Microsoft is not alone in this irrationality. Sadly, the disease is rampant.

Advanced Micro Devices got in the act a few years ago. They released a new line of their Athlon processor called the Athlon XP. Why XP, you ask? Perhaps to ride the popularity of Windows XP? I have been told that the XP stands for experience. However, I have yet to hear anyone who is running an Athlon Experience processor at 2.5 gigahertz. I suspect that AMD was smitten with x-itis, and slapped on the ?P? to try to cover up their illness. Or perhaps they are merely following after Microsoft’s Windows XP, an operating system with no good reason for the X or the P.

That brings me to the sad, sad case Apple Computer. For years, they maintained a logical naming scheme any first grade teacher would be proud of. There was OS 8, then 8.5, then 9, then it all fell apart. OS 10 came next, but Apple decided it would be cool to use Roman numerals, and OS X was born. However, we were told, it is pronounced ?ten? and not ?ex?. So, you would expect an update to OS X to be numbered as OS X.2, right? Wrong. OS X version 10.2 is the correct name for the current version. However, Apple has provided little guidance on pronunciation. So, it is ?Oh Es Ten, Version Ten Point Two? or is it ?Oh Es Ex Version Ten Point Two?? Maybe it is just ?Ex Two,? or even ?Ten Two?? Apple had no more of a clue than we did, so they gave up and named it Jaguar.

Not content with their madness, Apple rolled out a new product, the XServe. Or is the TenServe? Maybe the Siamese? Who can say? Let us hope that Apple recovers from x-itis before another 5 revisions of their processor comes out. PowerMac GX anyone?

Not that GX would be the first time X has been randomly placed alongside another letter. Sony has a particular talent at this. For several months now, Sony has published an impressive and feature-rich line of handhelds with a model number that began with NX. The N means nothing, the X means nothing, at least as far as the average consumer can tell. That name is no better than ?really cool handheld with lots of features,? except that NX is a tad easier to say.

NX is not the limit of Sony?s infection. No, Sony took that madness to a new height just a few months ago. They took one of the last bastions of sensible naming schemes, the Playstation 2, PS2 for short, and announced a fairly significant update with lots of new features. The name of this new item, one would think, would be PS2+, or PS3. Nope. PSX. If PS2 means PlayStation 2, then PSX must mean PlayStation 10? Or that it is running Apple?s OS X? Nothing so normal. Abandoning all shred of resistance to the plague of x-itis, Sony slapped a seemingly random ?X? on this promising product, further adding to the confusion prevalent in the tech world.

But why X? What is the cause of this insane fascination? Do the marketing people honestly think that X looks or sounds more impressive on a product than any other letter? Personally, I like Q. PSQ has a much nicer ring to it. X holds no special power over me. The sheer amount of Xs on the market has all but numbed whatever deep emotional response to this silly letter I would ever have felt. The X is meaningless to me.

A change is needed. I would hope that the industry would return to sanity and began implementing a coherent and systematic naming scheme. However, aware of the many foibles of the companies in question, I surrender those hopes as nothing but pipe dreams. Instead, I propose we lobby these afflicted firms to wean themselves from the insidiousness of x-itis a little at a time. I suggest they begin with the letter K. K looks similar to X on the right half of its body. The change would be slight, and hopefully something these giant corporations could adjust to with a little encouragement. K is a good path from the wilderness of confusion brought on by x-itis to the understandable civility of names that consistently make sense. Once these poor souls have adjusted to K, a whole world of possibility opens up. K could be a start to many a happy future for the inflicted companies.

And there is no time to waste. The transition must start soon, very soon. Final Fantasy has fallen to the curse. Hackers favor that letter over all others. Blizzard must not be allowed to fall to the dreaded plague of x-itis.

On the other hand, Xalem?s Fire wouldn?t be such a bad change…

Disclaimer: Salem’s Fire was written by Luke Blaize and hosted by The opinions expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of

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