How Artificial Intelligence Got Its Name

Aug 12, 2016

By Tom Chatfield

It’s a little-known fact that part of Wikipedia’s name comes from a bus in Hawaii. In 1995, six years before the famous online encyclopedia launched, a computer programmer named Ward Cunningham was at Honolulu International Airport on his first visit to the islands. He was in the middle of developing a new kind of website to help software designers collaborate, one that users themselves could rapidly edit from a web browser. It was a striking innovation at the time. But what to call it?

“I wanted an unusual word to name for what was an unusual technology,” Cunningham told a curious lexicographer in 2003. “I learned the word wiki … when I was directed to the airport shuttle, called the Wiki Wiki Bus.”

Wiki means quick, and Hawaiian words are doubled for emphasis: the very quick bus. With that, Cunningham’s software had the distinctive sound he was looking for: WikiWikiWeb.

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