Lurch

The word processor that can check your math

Why is it called “Lurch?”

Okay, it’s a funny name. The project got that nickname a long time ago, and it stuck. Funny or not, the name has some positive connotations that we hope our project grows to deserve as it matures. For example, a lurch is a big, unexpected step forward.

Although the association with the famous butler of The Addams Family is not intended, it is also not unwelcome. That character shares several important qualities with our software:

  • Both are powerful.
  • Both live to serve you.
  • Both are capable of being very formal.

But here’s the long story… In 1997, Nathan and Ken began envisioning the Lurch project, but did not have a name for it at that time. Having intimate knowledge of both the mathematical software Maple and the text-based email client Pine, we felt it important to use a tree name.

The first thing that came to mind was Oak, but we found out there was already mathematical software by that name (!), although I can’t seem to find a link now to that project from more than a decade ago. Taking this as evidence that we were on the right path, we chose another tree, the Larch. This had the positive karma of being the subject of a Monty Python bit.

But in 1997, we weren’t ready to build “Larch” quite yet, but we did work on a prototype. We called it “Lurch” because it was very like the Larch we envisioned building one day, but it was actually just an initial stumbling step. The prototype was completed in 1999 as part of Nathan’s undergraduate work, mentored by Ken.

Then a decade passed, a decade in which we would often think about or refer to the project. But Nathan was off getting his Ph.D. and getting married and things like that, so the project was on the back burner. By the time we resurrected it in the 2006-2008 timeframe, we’d been calling it Lurch for about ten years, and couldn’t think of calling it anything else.

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