I was reading the latest business book from 37signals last night on my Droid, and it occurred to me that the number they used in their company name is the name of one of my android characters – Thirty-seven. This is entirely coincidental, I can assure you. Because I remember why I chose the number 37 for my android and it had nothing to do with unexplained signals from ET or the creators of Ruby On Rails.
I chose 37 because it is a transposed version of a number that is significant to Amateur Radio operators. 73 is what Hams say to each other as a friendly exchange when they sign off – a way of saying “Best Regards”. I wanted my android to be a friendly, docile character with a touch of innocence. Calling it 73 would have been too obvious to me, as a Ham, so I reversed the numbers and called it Thirty-seven.
Before Thirty-seven was upgraded to a Silicant, or self-aware android, its official name was Constantine Thirty-seven. Androids were given the surname of their owners and then assigned a number. The actual number is much longer but it’s far easier to just say the first series, which is meant to indicate that the Constantine family has at least 37 androids. They are a rich and prestigious political family which explains the high number of robotic helpers.
I didn’t want them to have actual human names, because they were considered property, not individuals. This also made it unnecessary to use the “r” designation that Asimov used in his robot names to distinguish metal people from fleshy folk. But after an android is upgraded to a Silicant, it starts to become a real person and one of the first things it does is drop the sir name. For instance, the character Eighty-eight removed its chest plate where its name was embossed and filed off the sir name, leaving just the number. But it lives on a frontier world and operates autonomously. So it can get away with some quirks.
Where did I get the number 88 from, you ask? Nowhere. It just sounded vaguely menacing, which fit the character.