SOMETIMES it is difficult to comprehend what is in the minds of the people who decide on names for new information technology (IT) products. About three years ago, a well known Japanese copier and fax manufacturer planned to enter the laptop computer market with a product named ''My Tool'', which was a literal translation of the Japanese name. By a stroke of good fortune, representatives of this company spoke with their distributors in Hong Kong prior to launching the laptop worldwide. Native English-language-speaking executives explained that although the name My Tool would inspire creative writers at advertising agencies throughout the English-speaking world, the connotations were such that it may cause extreme embarrassment to the manufacturing company. The name was changed. Some readers will remember a mini-computer called Adam, or at least they may remember the brochure which depicted a naked woman sitting at one of those desk-type mini-configurations of the 1970s. Of course, there are always the exceptions. When I first heard that someone had called a personal computer ''Apple'', I thought it was absurd. Last week, I was faced with yet another new modem which was being hailed as an ''electronic secretary''. I have seen a lot of wondrous facilities which reduce the mundane routine of a person's job, but none which takes the entire job away. The nature of a person's job may change and, more often than not, become more interesting with technology, but it is rare that a job is lost entirely. But it is not the inference which can be drawn from the electronic secretary that bothers me, it is the name given to the software which accompanies the product - Cooee. It is hard to imagine any word more Australian than ''cooee''. The dictionary defines ''cooee'' as ''a prolonged shrill cry used as a signal to attract attention (in the Australian bush); originally used by the Australian Aborigines and later adopted by the settlers''. Most of my friends who live in the bush say they always know when someone from the city is wandering around lost because it is only ignorant city folk who roam about yelling ''cooee'' at the top of their voices. No experienced country dweller would even consider doing it. To a degree, this name has some validity in that modems certainly do produce prolonged shrieks and they do that to attract the attention of the machine being called, but it is unlikely that was the reason behind the name. The Cooee range of voice-enabled modems was unique, said the Australian manufacturer, NetComm, because the Cooee communications software gave the modem almost unlimited flexibility as a message-handling system. The hardware uses a simple programming/script system to automate tasks such as voice mail, data forwarding and fax-on-request. Cooee is a Windows application that comes with ''out of the box'' scripts and a digitised voice system, so that users can have the system running within minutes. While sound can be played through an enhanced speaker in the modem, or by any speaker connected to the PC, there is a jack on the modem for a telephone handset. This allows the user to record messages for use in scripts. The software compresses voice files to 25 per cent of their normal size, meaning that an average hard disk can store hundreds of phone messages. The Cooee modules include an answering machine which can receive messages and data, play a welcome message to voice callers, then record their messages in line with a normal answering machine. It allows remote message retrieval by users with the correct personal identity number (PIN) and faxes can be forwarded on. Messages may also be automatically forwarded to another phone number or pager service. For example, an urgent message may try a sequence of numbers trying to deliver the message. As each number answers, a digitised voice announces that there is a messagefor a particular person. If the correct response code is not given, the machine tries the next programmed number. And Cooee will also answer incoming calls and forward them to another person or phone extension. Because the system was driven by scripts or modules, NetComm said it could perform an almost unlimited range of communications functions.