Am I the only one who finds it infuriating / amusing when consumer products and forms go by numbers that have little meaning to me?

Oftentimes, companies present products as if the name has great significance outside of the circle of engineers who created it.

Sorry to do this to you, Cisco, but:

“Introducing the Linksys E4200!”

Why is this better than the Linksys WRT320N or the Linksys WRT160NL? Setting up a home network is complicated enough for most folks, without having to decipher a company’s internal product SKU naming system.

Other examples:


Tell me, what is the difference between an HP Officejet Pro 8500A e-All-in-One Printer A910a and an HP Officejet Pro 8500A Plus e-All-in-One Printer A910g?

And why are they so differently priced? Why does one end in ‘g’ and have the word ‘plus’ in it? Does that make it better? Help.


I used to be puzzled as to why a Boeing 757 was smaller than a 747, until I learned that the names 707 to 787 indicate the order in which the aircraft were created, not their size.

I still do not know the origin of the Airbus A300 series names. I know that A380 is the biggest, from my days of reporting on aerospace — but, why are they all 300 or higher? No clue.

Tax forms.

The IRS is the worst. The 1040EZ is the simple form, as opposed to the lesser named 1040, which is … not easy.

But where did the number 1040 come from? Since when did sticking the letters EZ on anything really make it easy? (Really, all it means is that you can’t claim deductions and attach your Schedule A.) And why not just call it, ‘General tax return form?’

Now that I am my church treasurer, I am discovering new ways to despise the complexity of tax forms. (And realizing that no amount of education or skill in finance will preclude the need for a good accountant.)

All employees deserve a W-2. But then, the organization must file a W-3. And then there is a Form 940, Form 990, Form 1099s and Form 941s that must be filed.  Well yes, of course, how could I forget Form 940?

Thanks IRS for making tax forms more complex than graduate level physics. Life would be boring if you were obvious.

My point.

Don’t ever feel simple-minded if these things confound you. They confound me too.

The flip side is, I’m appreciative when numbers make sense. Take our national Interstate highway grid.

The north-to-south highways start on the West coast with I-5 and finish on the East coast with I-95.  The east-to-west highways start on the Gulf Coast with I-10 and finish near Canada with I-90.

Thus, I live in Seattle at the intersection of I-90 and I-5 — the northwest corner of the country.  For a time, I lived at the intersection of I-65 and I-10, along the Gulf Coast. And I grew up and attended college along the I-95 corridor. It’s a simple grid.

Score one for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A modified Occam’s Razor: Sometimes, obvious is best.