Curious about the ROS naming history, I dug a bit and ran across this podcast interview with Tully Foote, ROS Platform Manager from @TheConstruct in April 2019. The questions starts at around 31:30, and I figured it’d be worthwhile to capture here for posterity.
The release manager selects the name of each ROS release. Naming begins with community input (for example, see the discussion for naming N-turtle or ROS 2 G-turtle. The release manager also considers potential trademark conflicts, hidden meanings, pronounceability, search engine optimization, and similar issues before settling on a name.
There is no strict requirement to name releases after turtles (take Indigo Igloo, for example), but this has long been the convention. The first turtle-themed release was “Boxturtle”, the second release of ROS. “C-turtle” (pun intended) naturally followed as the third release.
The C-turtle release also introduced a much needed simple robot simulator for teaching ROS basics. This turtlesim simulator was based on Logo, a general purpose turtle graphics programming language dating back to the 1960’s. The ROS turtle theme was established.
Interestingly, the cursor used for drawing graphics within Logo is called the “turtle”. The initial Logo-inspired turtlesim release used a box turtle icon as the “turtle,” and turtlesim gets a new turtle icon with each release. The icon is randomly chosen when launching turtlesim.