Technology Suffixes

As a spin-off from the Typotron thread, I thought, it may be a fun exercise to come up with a timeline of favorite technology suffixes by era.

In said thread a mysterious IBM labeled CRT tube was identified as a Typotron, which is somewhat of a combination of a Memotron storage tube and a Charactron display.

Which caused @whartung to observe,

Just going to sit here and marvel about the age when appending tron to everything made it high tech and all advanced.

And @EdS came up with a bit of detail,

About the -tron naming: you led me down a bit of a rabbit hole @whartung. I think it goes back to the Cyclotron “named as laboratory slang 1” although it’s possible the Pelletron or the Laddertron were earlier, and we’re back in the 1930s if not the 20s. All of them are particle accelerators: as is a CRT! So calling any CRT a -tron is consistent with that coinage. Although I still don’t know where it comes from, we do know the electron - a convenient particle to accerate - was named in 1891.

Inspired by a paper from Norwegian engineer Rolf Wideroe, Lawrence invented a unique circular particle accelerator, which he referred to as his “proton merry-go-round,” but which became better known as the cyclotron . The first cyclotron was a pie-shaped concoction of glass, sealing wax, and bronze.

Martin Graetz observed as early as in 1981 in his article “Origin of Spacewar”, regarding the Minskytron (a visual synthesizer devised by Marvin Minsky around 1961/62),

“tron” was the In suffix of the early 1960s

However, -tron was by no means the first and only such suffix.
E.g, before -tron, there was -ic (as in ASDIC for Anti Submarine Detection, um, “-ic” — -ic may have a loose connection to sound as in “sonic”), and later -tron faced some competition in -o-rama, at least in immersive media applications. In the 1970s -omat enjoyed some use (with “2000” added as a bonus when it really mattered), and there was -otronic even before this. And, of course, there was -omatic.

Are there any others? (There must be!) Can we attach these to eras and key technologies?


Ah! the Multivac era.

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This is actually a difficult one: is it “-vac”, or just “-ac” as in BINAC, and how are these related to “-iac”. Are they the same, or different? Do we list regular expressions like /[iv]?ac\b/ ? :slight_smile:

Moreover, is -iac the transition from the -ic era to the tube era of the -ac years? Is -vac an appeasing proposition to the British and their valves?

Agreed - but with the modification that -ac was even more popular, from ENAIC, EDVAC, EDSAC, BRAINIAC, MANIAC and so on.

Does VAX owe just a little to -ac? (I know what V A X stand for, but were they chosen for effect?)

Don’t forget -OS! That one is still with us, though.

I guess, -iac was more popular with the one-of-a-kind computers (the “i” hinting at some influence by John v. Neumann), while -vac became the signature of Univac serial production builds.
Are there any vacuum tube/valve related products ending in -ac outside of computing? (Probably some vacuum cleaners, but this is another story.)

Of course, there is -ex in applications of all kinds.

Then, there was -lizer or -olizer for anything built around an oscilloscope (probably used for tuning in some circuitry).

It seems to me that many of these suffixes were borrowed from physics or chemistry terms. Such as -tron for electron, positron, neutron, etc. There was also -ium, from Pentium, which is a suffix for a number of elements (helium, chromium, aluminium, etc.) But Pentium is fairly recent.

However, it may be interesting that we took the ending “tron” from electron, etc, but made the beginning of vacuum the suffix “vac” or “ac”. Also, at times it is even more complicated or specific. E.g., “tron” seems to have originally implied particle acceleration and probably some circular or spinning motion, as well. “tronic”, on the other hand, seems to imply the use of at least some transistors (or generally speaking, solid state electronic components, probably some of them active components – is a bare resistor network already “tronic”-worthy?).
“omatic” seems to imply some self-regulated device, preferably electro-mechanical, anything from a strip of bi-metals and upwards in the scale of complication. Any “ic” suggests some integration. Otherwise, it’s just a simple “-at” or “-omat”.
(E.g., if we were to market a simple light sensor based on a single solid state component, we may sell the sensor as the “Lumitronomat”, but our entire switching system as the “Lumitronomatic”. If it is a consumer friendly device in a brightly colored box, we may also think about “Lumilectric”. A “Lumitron”, on the other hand, would be some kind of special tube, while our custom solid state component may be a “Luminoid” :slight_smile: )