"i" have no iDea
January 25, 2008 6:07 PM   Subscribe

Why does everything start with an "i" ... like "iFrame" or "iPod"? What the hell does the "i" stand for?
posted by GIRLesq to Technology (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The first I remember is the i in iMac, circa 98. It stood for Internet as in Internet Mac. I think after that it is all bandwagon jumping, that is the little i stands for cool hip and futuristic.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:12 PM on January 25, 2008

i always thought it all came from marketing that tried to ride the coattails of the iPod, or whatever that came from.
posted by gcat at 6:13 PM on January 25, 2008

It's because of the iMac, where i stood for internet. It was one of the first computers with no floppy drive! It sold pretty good and I'm sure Apple liked the first-person-singular pronoun connotations so they started using it on everything.
posted by aubilenon at 6:13 PM on January 25, 2008

The first I remember is the i in iMac, circa 98.

oops. yeah, that.
posted by gcat at 6:14 PM on January 25, 2008

Inline Frame.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:14 PM on January 25, 2008

Yeah, the original iMac emphasized how easy getting on the internet was. I think that was the first that used the "i."
posted by ALongDecember at 6:18 PM on January 25, 2008

IFRAME has a different etymology (unless you're referring to some digital picture frame called iFrame, or something). An IFRAME is an "inline" frame, like an inline image, that can be placed anywhere in an HTML page, instead of just at the top level in a FRAMESET.
posted by hattifattener at 6:31 PM on January 25, 2008

With IFrame, the i stands for inline, not internet.
posted by willnot at 6:32 PM on January 25, 2008

I think it can also be inferred that the "i" stands for "I," as in, the first person pronoun. Just like "my" stands for me in "myBagel.com" or any of the other mid-90s marketing pitches. The idea is that this isn't just any cold, soulless piece of machinery. It's "my" piece of machinery or it becomes part of me, or "I."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:32 PM on January 25, 2008

nthing the iMac as the start of it all.
posted by puritycontrol at 6:39 PM on January 25, 2008

Did anyone say iMac? Cuz that was it.

Steve Jobs was the interim CEO of Apple, and referred to himself as the iCEO. HA! Ha ha!

posted by The Deej at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2008

I know it was started by the iMac, but I've always thought of it this way:
I, Robot. iMac, I, Claudius, iPod, etc. These are declarations of self. These are things that are meant to be (advertised, at least) as more than just an extension of you, but an integral element of your very existence, so, in reality, YOU are the iPod, and the iPod is YOU, and in calling the iPod "iPod", you are declaring this thing a part of your being. Dig?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:57 PM on January 25, 2008

I get it....

Wait, what?

Oh, and this should take you back.
posted by The Deej at 6:59 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's for all the stuff that's not a part of the team.
posted by iamkimiam at 7:03 PM on January 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

Everything after "iMac" in apple's line is really just branding/marketing at work.

Anymore, iSomething is a trademark that identifies it as an Apple product.
posted by toomuchpete at 7:06 PM on January 25, 2008

Beware Apple's latest product, the iRack.

Oldie, but a goodie.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:11 PM on January 25, 2008

From a slide in the Steve Jobs speech The Deej linked to (it's at the 40-second mark):

posted by Dec One at 7:24 PM on January 25, 2008

iNodes have been around for at least thirty years. These are data structures used to store information in unix operating systems. That's the earliest use of an i-"something" that I can recall.
posted by dendrite at 7:49 PM on January 25, 2008

The "i" stands for "I," that's right, the pronoun. You know the one. I rock. I suck. I swim. I drink. I laugh I cry.

It's marketing speak for "this product is all about you."
posted by scarabic at 8:08 PM on January 25, 2008

It's interesting noting that the "e" prefix was more popular in 90s technology, whereas the "i" is ascendant now.
posted by Miko at 8:14 PM on January 25, 2008

Apple may have made it chic, but there was that whole legal brouhaha over their iPhone, as Infogear had their own "I Phone," and later "IPhone," since 1993. Then they eventually came out with an internet-based "iPhone" in 1998, same year Apple released the iMac. Which came first, I don't know. Either way, I don't think we can give Infogear much credit for the "i Fad."

Ah yes... I almost forgot about those Jeff Goldblum ads... Yes, Jeff, I too would say "internet."
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:33 PM on January 25, 2008

The "i" prefix predates the iMac. It was widely used, along with e- prefix to "internetify" things by clever marketers in at least '96 if not earlier.
posted by stp123 at 9:57 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Serious business.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:42 PM on January 25, 2008

I always thought it stands for interactive, which is often used as a horrible marketing term.
posted by kall at 12:55 AM on January 26, 2008

I always thought it stood for information, like in IT. You learn something new every day...
posted by afx237vi at 6:24 AM on January 26, 2008

I'd heard it meant intelligent.

"Intelligent Pod."

No wait that still sounds dumb.

Mostly just branding nonsense at this point, I guess.
posted by sandswipe at 12:20 PM on January 26, 2008

Back in the mid 90s every new product was named i-something or e-something. That fad has pretty much died except for Apple who is evidently a pretty big die-hard for this. I always thought it sounded cheap and "me-too." Now that Apple has been using it for so long its lost meaning and I associate purely with Apple. Oh well, that's the funny world of branding for you.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:45 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've heard it applied to interactive, information and internet. I seriously doubt that the iMac was the first usageā€”I remember i and e being quite the 90s prefixes.
posted by klangklangston at 7:24 PM on January 26, 2008

And in the case of the iRobot Roomba: i am too lazy to vacuum.
posted by The Deej at 7:29 PM on January 26, 2008

@afx237vi: I always thought it stood for information, like in IT.
Actually IT stands for Internet Technology, not information.

I, Robot was exceptional in that it meant I, as in me. Most of the "i" letters now I think are mixed between information and Internet. It's really very subjective though, and only the designers really know.

I actually believe that they are a play on the word from I, Robot. Being that I, Robot was a new generation of technology and would be the ultimate technology which likely could never be improved. The "i" is like a pun for them and they pay homage to it.

Just my guess, which could be wrong.
posted by magnoliasouth at 2:04 AM on January 27, 2008

No, IT departments generally are Information Technology departments, not Internet Technology departments. There was IT before there was Internet.
posted by klangklangston at 10:18 AM on January 27, 2008

I seriously doubt it has anything to do with Isaac Asimov's short stories. It officially stood for Internet and was a pun on the first person pronoun. That's it.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:20 AM on January 27, 2008

There was also a software package called "Internet in a Box" released in 1994, which was often nicknamed the "IBox."

posted by remi at 9:13 AM on June 22, 2008

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