by rupe

Where did Sprint come from?

Because Alex really, really hates Sprint, and because it's an interesting story:


Cool Trivia Answer 72 Last week I asked:

"By now, everyone knows about the phone company called Sprint. It wasn't always called that.

"Tell me what non-telecommunications company started the phone company now called Sprint, and what the service was originally called."

OK, now I'm getting the pattern. A sizable bunch of you went right to the Sprint Web page and learned that the company's roots are with the Brown Telephone Company and United Telephone and so forth and so on.

Interesting, but not what I was looking for.

What all you people found was the history of GTE. But GTE didn't create Sprint; it *bought* Sprint. And it bought it from the Southern Pacific Railway.

Get it? Southern Pacific Railway? SPR? SPRint?

Back in the early '80s, the railroad realized that its rights of way were among its strongest assets, and were naturals to carry fiber optic cables and put the company into the new business of alternative long-distance access. As SPCommunications grew and the regulatory environment became more friendly, management apparently realized that there was a big business there, but not one they could reasonably invest in and market. So they sold it.

Several correct respondents said that the Sprint name came from something like Southern Pacific Internal Network Telephones. Could be, but it sounds to me like what New York Times columnist William Safire calls a back-formation. I think they called it Sprint because it sounded catchy.

Who got it right: Ben Sanford, Dan Freepons (and his buddy Matt), Guy Oliver, Tony Severdia, Irv Yokoyama, Henry H. Armstrong, John Carroll, Barry Millen (it's OK, Barry; we're still free), John Lien, Alan Gendron, Greg Horodeck, David Lawrence, CarlS, Robert Townsend, Phil Gregory, Barry Weintraub, Jim Montgomery, David Silvernail, Edwin Cason, David Little, Brad Marin, William Hindman, Arley Dealey, Gary Lipner, Richard Owens, Dean Irwin, Thomas Streff, Dave Adams, isyer, William Matthews, Samuel Yates, Paul Joslin, Craig S. MacDonald, Doug McKirdy and Steve Doyle. Lots more got it wrong.

By the way, Gary Lipner pointed to a wonderful resource: Harry Newton's Telecom Dictionary (available in all the usual places). It's a great book, assembled by a terrific fellow.


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