In the Star Wars universe, droids -- those helpful ambulant robots running amuck and fixing (or breaking) things -- typically have names that boil down to four alphanumeric characters. R2-D2 (and his cousin R2-D4). C-3PO. HK-47 (from Knights of the Old Republic). But the Star Wars universe is quite visibly teeming with these droids. If every combination of letters/numbers is used, the possible combinations run up to 1,679,616 -- which sounds like a lot, but then remember, assuming every name is used, we'd be having Droids named LLLL, 0OO0 (I am taken to understanding the "O" in C-3PO is the letter, not the number zero) or (worse yet) actual names like JOHN and MIKE and, erm, LUKE (or actual words like F1ST and D-0RK).

There are a couple possibilities to keep this from actually being so big of a problem. One is, perhaps the four characters by which droids are commonly referred are only part of their name; Luke Skywalker nicknames R2-D2 "Artoo" (although there should, technically, be close to 1,300 droids coasting about with an "R2-something"), but maybe Artoo's full name (number? designation?) is R2-D2-G57938BX, and we only ever get to hear the first four -- just like there are millions of John's and Jack's, and we only use the first name with the ones close to our lives, and first-and-last names with the rest. Or maybe, in a very similar way, droid names are themselves localised, so every neighborhood of the galaxy gets its own singular R2-D2, R4-F7, and such, and so long as one stays in their corner of it, they don't run into duplicate names. But, in the Star Wars universe, it seems like many people have an easy go of catching a ride from one part of the galaxy to another.

This is where, naturally, area codes would come in. In the totally Star Wars-unrelated movie Last Action Hero, the cross-dimensional kid sidekick chides Arnold Schwarzenegger's character about how quick the phone numbers should run out with every number starting with 555; responds the other character, "that's why we have area codes." Same deal here -- running into that alternate R2-D2 from outside your galactic neighborhood ought not mean bringing up confusion; just note that other one to be the 415 area code R2-D2, and all will be well.

I would think it far more useful if droids had something more akin to MAC addresses.

It would be great for the programmers and the people trying to write communications protocols for them (the droids)... but I guess that it'd be tough trying to come up with some kind of "slang name" for a droid named, say, "00:0F:65:42:E7:23" wouldn't it?

Also, with the current area code system we'd run out of three-digit numbers far before we ran out of galaxies...sigh.

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