Where did the name for Microsoft Access come from?


We've seen how the names for some Microsoft products had to be changed due to a name conflict. I'm told that the people who had to come up with the name for the database product avoided this pitfall in a clever way: Instead of trying to avoid a name that was already taken, they intentionally used a name that was already taken: By Microsoft itself.

They discovered that Microsoft had a long-forgotten terminal emulator product called Microsoft Access. "Access" sounded like an appropriate name for a database product, so they blew the dust off it and gave the name a new life.

Comments (15)
  1. Alun Jones says:

    There’s a rumour that Excel was going to be combined with Access, but the project was abandoned because the combined product would be called "Microsoft Excess".

    Much the same reason why Dire Straits never hooked up with Chris Rhea.

  2. 8 says:

    Does this mean HyperTerminal is HyperTerminal because Access existed again?

  3. Michael Price says:

    BTW, another naming conflict (albeit in Vista)…

    WinInit.exe

    In Vista it is part of the startup sequence.

    In the past it was a trojan

    http://support.microsoft.com/?scid=kb;en-us;299332

    http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/venc/data/w32.hllw.bymer.html

  4. Markus Petersson says:

    I always wondered about this one, since there was a computer game manufacturer called Access Software (makers of Links, the golf game). Sounds like an invitation to a lawsuit to me. I seem to recall Microsoft buying Access later on though, so I guess it’s not an issue any more.

  5. 8 says:

    wininit.exe existed, but it was in c:windows not c:windowssystem

  6. Andy says:

    Oh, it’s such a chore to move to and from c:windows to c:windowssystem.

  7. Tim Smith says:

    HyperTerminal existed for a long time as a 3rd party application before MS licensed it.

  8. Rich says:

    I’m looking forward to the MultiPlan product launch…

  9. Phil Wilson says:

    I don’t know if this was a factor in the Access case, but it’s a lot less fuss legally (registering trademarked names etc) and probably speedier to use an old trademarked dusty name that your company still owns that applies to a long dead product. Rumor has it that my company chose its name (Unisys) for that reason.

  10. Gabe says:

    Speaking of Multiplan, I seem to recall that Excel was actually the result of a merger between Multiplan and Chart. Does anybody know why they came up with a new name?

  11. SamT says:

    Have to agree with Phil Wilson, the name seems to have been just fortuitous that Microsoft already had the trademark for "Microsoft Access." Got to say that the the program was so popular that after living on Word 4, Word 5, Word 6 (for DOS) that I can only recall looking at those Green Microsoft folders but can’t recall having ever used the program.

    Gabe: If Excel had 1st released for DOS it may have made life as a Multiplan/Chart merge but 1st releasing as a Mac only (there was a MultiPlan/Chart for the Mac?) I think it fortuitously lost all the old baggage (and picked up some memory hungry ones)

    Love these digging into the past articles.

  12. "the name seems to have been just fortuitous …"  "I think it fortuitously lost all the old baggage …"

    You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.

    (actually, I think it does, but I couldn’t resist making the reference…)

  13. Gabe says:

    SamT: Multiplan and Chart were released in 1984 for the Mac; Excel 1.0 was released for Mac in 1985.

    Check out http://toastbucket.com/apple1984ad/p08.html for an ad showing the two early pieces of software.

    I don’t know for sure if Excel was based on the Multiplan codebase or if it was a complete rewrite, but the people who wrote it also worked on Multiplan, so it’s almost like saying that Windows 95 was the result of a merger between DOS and Windows.

  14. F00sh says:

    haha, I like how in that link to the 1984 Apple Add, where it says: "Business Graphics Before Macintosh".. its just a blank screen.

Comments are closed.