I recently ran across a Margaret Atwood quote that epitomizes why we chose to name our company “Alchemy Computer Solutions.” Several months ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Geoffrey Chaucer (or at least a hilariously temporally vague manifestation of him) interviewed one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood. If you’re feeling up to the diversion of Middle English, the interview is wonderful (as is the rest of the blog). But what especially caught my attention was a question towards the end of the interview: Chaucer asked Atwood what comes to mind when she hears the word “Alchemy.” She answered (in Middle English, of course),
1) My recipe for Calla Lilies, a swetemete of great delicacye. 2) What geekes did in late mediaeval tymes.
I love that definition of alchemy: what geeks did in late medieval times. It resonates particularly well with me, since by day I am a web developer and own a company called Alchemy, and by night I am a medieval historian (in an alternate universe, I’m a medieval history professor; in this universe, I’m very happy as a web developer). Naturally, our interest in history was part of the reason that Jonathan and I chose to name our company “Alchemy Computer Solutions.”
Margaret Atwood is spot-on when she says alchemy is what geeks did. Of course, defining “geek” is tricky, but here I’m thinking of “geeks” as people who immerse themselves in a topic that others find arcane or tedious, and who devote themselves passionately to learning all they can about that topic. Alchemists were, of course, seeking a way to turn lead into gold using the famous Philosopher’s Stone, but in the process, what they were really doing was trying to understand how the world works. They were trying to get to the very roots of what is knowable. In the eras before computers and comic books, alchemy was a good outlet for the kind of people who feel compelled to learn all that they can about a topic.
One of the reasons we chose the name “Alchemy” for our company is that a lot of what we do seems like magic to those who don’t share our knowledge of computers. When Jonathan fixes a server or I make a website do something nifty, it seems to our clients like we just worked some magic. But of course, like alchemy, what we’re doing is really a science. It might look like hocus-pocus to non-geeks, but we geeks understand the underlying code and processes.