Choosing the right baby names with ATmega328

Despite what some may think, names do matter. Trust us. The wrong one can lead to countless jokes in the schoolyard, mockery around the neighborhood, and if it happens to be a character in a popular TV show, it can lead to endless one-liners. Nevertheless, selecting the right name can be a difficult task. So much so that Maker “Ranthalion” set out to devise a gadget that could automatically choose one for you.


According to Ranthalion, the solution needed to not only generate some awesome names, but be easy and relatively cheap to make with parts on hand. After all, given the limited use of the device, the aptly dubbed Baby Namer would eventually end up in a drawer somewhere.

“I prototyped the system with an [Atmel based] Arduino. I ran into two snags developing the software. It’s actually difficult to come up with a bunch of awesome names, and the amount of SRAM in an Arduino is actually quite limited. I looked to the census to overcome the first problem and downloaded a list of names,” the Maker writes.

Given the tremendous size of the list, Ranthalion says a quick NodeJS script reduced it down to a random 8% sample. “The SRAM space turned out to be a bit more difficult to identify. The first attempt was to just stuff hundreds of names into a huge array. This compiled and uploaded without a problem, but resulted in strange runtime behavior.”

However, after Ranthalion realized that the variable space was too small to hold the variables, he discovered the value of the PROGMEM modifier for storing data.


The ATmega328 based Baby Namer uses two separate arrays — one with “awesome names” that include both first and middle names (like Sharktooth Chompenstein, Skunk Ahdjunk and Beezer Washingbeard), the other array containing much less exciting names from census data. While the first four names derive from the awesome array, the device then switches to the census names (like Carol, Ted and Alice) with a 25% chance of using part of an awesome name.

Have a baby on the way? Then, hurry on over to the project’s official page here.

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