Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Reticulating splines"

I see the cryptic status message "Reticulating splines . . ." whenever I use the wonderful online service Mozy to back up my hard drive (as I did last night). Thus Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day caught my attention this morning:

reticulate   \rih-TIK-yuh-lut\   adjective
1 : resembling a net or network; especially : having veins, fibers, or lines crossing
2 : being or involving evolutionary change dependent on genetic recombination involving diverse interbreeding populations
Reticulate is also a verb, transitive ("to divide, mark, or construct so as to form a network") and intransitive ("to become reticulated"). A spline is a curved element used in computer graphics. So what are "reticulating splines"? A programmer's joke.

Wikipedia's article on the computer-game Sim City 2000 explains:
SimCity 2000 was the first sim game to feature the semi-nonsensical phrase "Reticulating Splines," which means "to make a network of splines." [Game designer] Will Wright has stated in an interview that the game does not actually reticulate splines when generating terrain, and he just inserted the phrase because it "sounded cool."
And there are people who get it: one Mozy user gives the service "super huge geek bonus points" for "Reticulating splines."

If you need to back up your hard drive, you can't do better than Mozy, reticulating splines and all.

[All definitions from Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary.]

comments: 9

Anonymous said...

I remember "reticulating splines!" I believe it's in every Sims game.


JuliaR said...

Hm, I only knew a spline was that thin rubbery thing you forced into the groove to hold the screen in place.

Michael Leddy said...

Ben, I'm happy that this post brought back a small piece of the past for you.

Julia, I should've said "A spline is, among other things, a curved element," etc. I never knew that the item you mention was called anything other than "that thin rubbery thing you forced into the groove" etc. : )

JuliaR said...

I only know because I had to fix a screen one day and decided to do it myself. And now I can fix any old screen!

Anonymous said...

On the Sims 2, it says "Happy 14th Birthday, Reticulated Splines!" :-)

Thanks for this bit of information. I've noticed that it's in all of the Sim games, and I've always wondered what it was...

Michael Leddy said...

You're welcome, Anon.

Anonymous said...

Actually I learned to reticulate splines during my college years, or at least I learned to use splines for graphic compression, I am not sure the verb used was reticulate. It was combining splines I think.

Anyway, I have always enjoyed this phrase in sim city, found it enormously catchy, and was happy to see it appear on my screen when I was playing the new Spore game.

Unknown said...

My observations, have concluded the following: reticulating splines (in mozy language), really means this... Hi stupid, we at mozy appreciate your business. Even though you have paid for an unlimited amount of data account, we realize you are most likely a run of the mill home user that will find our term (reticulating splines) very technologically advanced, therefore, you will not challenge the word, but accept it as something uber geeky, that you have paid for.

The real meaning is, that although your paid account allows you to backup unlimited data, anything over 500 GB, will be pushing the envelope (not onvelope), and we will attempt to fool you with nonsensical terms (reticulating splines) to pacify your concerns. Once we are able to provide you with the technology that you paid for, we will remove that terminology from the following software update. Until then, just keep thinking something really cool is happening between your computer and our servers, heck you paid for it!

Once again, thank you for being a paid customer.


The Mozy staff and support team

Michael Leddy said...

I see more wit (and much more good will) in Mozy's efforts than you do, Often. I’ve been using Mozy from very early on, and I’ve always liked the intelligence and humor in the company's written materials. I’ve e-mailed about occasional problems and have had nothing but excellent support, as I’ve described in another post. The Mozy people linked to this “Reticulating splines” post a while ago (on Twitter, if I remember correctly) — hardly in keeping with a plan to delude users with mumbo-jumbo.