Everyone these days knows of Cortana, the helpful voice-powered AI assistant for Microsoft devices. Created in 2014, Cortana’s moniker was inspired by the character of the same name from the video game franchise Halo, also owned by Microsoft. The same actress who plays Cortana in the games also voices the AI. Something that you definitely didn’t know, however, is that Cortana was very nearly named after a very different game – the classic 75-ball game, bingo.
Bingo is a game that has closely followed technology as it has evolved. Thanks to new technologies, there are now even more ways for the typical bingo player to enjoy a game, including visiting an online bingo website where there are variations on the traditional way to play including Slingo, a mix of bingo and slots.
As we’ll see below, this was part of the inspiration behind the name.
Steve Ballmer’s Bingo
During the development stages, Halo fans and Microsoft customers heard of the Cortana idea and were passionate about the possible new name.
However, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft from 2000 to 2014, instead wanted the AI to be called ‘Bingo’, also linking it to Microsoft’s search engine ‘Bing’. However, he left the company soon after and was succeeded by Satya Nadella. Nadella preferred to go with Cortana, and the rest is history.
Why the Name ‘Bingo’ Works
Given bingo’s ever-present impact and link to technology, it’s no surprise that Ballmer wanted to go with the catchy name for Microsoft’s voice-aided technology. As well as being close to the name of Microsoft’s flagship search engine, ‘Bingo’ is a word that people are comfortable saying and one that simply rolls off the tongue.
This was the meaning behind its uptake for the game itself. Bingo was invented in Italy in the 16th century, but was called ‘Lotto’ across the pond. When it arrived in the USA in 1929, it was known as ‘Beano’. However, it was soon popularized by Edwin S. Lowe, a businessman from New York, who packaged the game for the masses. It’s thought that one of Lowe’s friends was so excited when they won that they shouted ‘Bingo’ instead of ‘Beano’, and Lowe went with that name, finding it much more pleasing to the ears.
Bingo’s Evolution Through Technology
Since then, bingo has made its way to other technologies, including television. Lingo, a word game show that uses bingo mechanics, made its debut on national TV in 1987 and is still being produced today, with RuPaul as the host. More recently, Bingo America premiered in 2008 on the Game Show Network. It ran for two seasons and featured two opponents. In yet another example of technology’s undeniable effects, viewers at home could print cards online, allowing them to play along and win money as well.
Bingo has only become more popular over the years and different ways to play have emerged thanks to the Internet and easy access to new technologies. There’s been a boom in Bingo being played in person in combination with other media. For example, musical bingo is wildly popular at events and in the hospitality industry. A song is played through the speakers, and players must identify the song before crossing it off their sheet. The reach of Bingo was further boosted by the changes of the 2010s. Bingo players began to take to platforms like Twitch and YouTube to broadcast themselves playing – many building up large audiences, and becoming bingo influencers.