I have seen in many places (especially universities) logins formed in the following way:

  • First letter of the first name: John Smithsonian → j
  • First seven letters of the name: John Smithsonian → smithso

Thus the login would be jsmithso.

Does anyone know how such a way to create a login is called? And why it is done that way.

2 Answers 2


Some time ago, most systems had an 8-character limit for user names. Given the limited space, first name plus last name is often too long, leading to various conventions such as 1+7 (or 1+1+6 for people who have two first names or a middle name). This isn't the only convention; common conventions include first name only, last name only, initials only (mostly in the US, rarer in countries where people only have one or two initials), first name initial plus last name (in either order), first name plus last name initial (in either order), user-chosen nicknames, any of the above truncated to 8 characters (sometimes a different number), or something else altogether.

  • Thanks! Do you know if there's a name for this particular convention?
    – tonfa
    Mar 19, 2011 at 22:30
  • @tonfa: None that I've ever heard. Mar 19, 2011 at 22:31
  • 3
    Traditionally, unix tended to be used on major networks, such as university computers. With a couple thousand new students to add to the system every year, you need to come up with some kind of naming convention to keep your sysadmins from going insane, and this particular one demonstrably has the least risk of collisions.
    – Shadur
    Jun 24, 2011 at 6:42

Have seen as many this way:

lastname+as many latters of firstname that fit into 8 chars as well.

It's just a way to fit into what available space you have.

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