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Where Did the Name "Fathom" Come From?

A frequently asked question at our training seminars - usually during a break or over lunch - is how we came up with the name "Fathom". More completely, the product is named AFT Fathom™ and it is considered by many as the world's leading pipe flow modeling software product.

The story behind the Fathom name is intimately tied to the story behind the founding of Applied Flow Technology as a company. So let's go back to 1993.

AFT Fathom started as a hobby in 1992 while I was working in the power industry as a research engineer. But it was not named Fathom and I was not planning to start a company. As a hobby, I was planning to develop a software product that did both steady-state and waterhammer calculations - all using a Windows graphical user interface. I coined a name for it that had the acronym FATHOM - Fundamental Analysis of Transient Hydraulics using Object-oriented Modeling. "Transient Hydraulics" is a more formal, academic term to describe waterhammer. I had learned to program waterhammer algorithms in my first job in the aerospace industry - in FORTRAN of course - and I wanted to put that knowledge into a GUI.

When my power industry employer started experiencing serious business issues in 1993 I decided - over a period of about a month - to start a company. And AFT was born in September 1993. But my "FATHOM" software was only half done. I had a company with no products to sell. The drag-and-drop interface used largely still used today was functional, and the steady-state solution algorithm was functional - also largely still used today. But that was about it.

So I made a couple of decisions. I dropped the intent to have Fathom perform waterhammer modeling. It was going to focus just on steady-state modeling - so I could get it done and have a product to sell. And I dropped the meaning of the acronym. The software just became "Fathom". Then I started programming like crazy!

A trademark attorney advised me to drop the "Fathom" name and instead use the name AFT Fathom. I took his advice and AFT Fathom 1.0 was completed and commercially released in April 1994. The first license was sold in May.

At that time in 1993-1994, Microsoft Windows (version 3.1) was emerging as the future of desktop operating systems. And graphical user interfaces were emerging as the future of commercial software. Remember, it was still mostly a DOS world at that time for most engineers. There were no graphical "drag-and-drop" software products for pipe flow modeling in Windows, and AFT Fathom was the world's first such commercial product.

For those who have an interest in trademarks, AFT Fathom is what is known as a "suggestive trademark". Most other companies in our space choose to use descriptive trademarks that involve some combination of the words pipe, flow, hydro and net. Trying to figure who is who is a challenge for most engineers!

The word "Fathom" connotes depth of thought and nautical measurement. But it is not descriptive. It is suggestive. We used this suggestiveness in our very first brochure for AFT Fathom back in 1994. Today the power is that engineers around the world instantly know who we are when they hear about a "Fathom model" - because of the non-literal name - and quality and depth of the product and our technical support.

Interestingly, the original acronym FATHOM which included waterhammer modeling is what our AFT Impulse software eventually became in 1996. But that is a story for another day...

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Comments 2

[...] There is a similar story behind the naming of AFT Fathom™ and I told that story several months ago here. [...]

[...] There is a similar story behind the naming of AFT Fathom™ and I told that story several months ago here. [...]
Guest - RJ on Thursday, 05 June 2014 01:26

Whats the Story behind the name Arrow and Impulse???

Whats the Story behind the name Arrow and Impulse???
Tuesday, 28 March 2023
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