Icon for a phone - rectangular screen
Icon for a TV - rectangular screen
Icon for a tablet - rectangular screen
Icon for a camera - rectangular screen (with a little dot in the corner)
Icon for a video recorder - rectangular screen (with a little dot in the corner)
Its true that most icons refer and represent a visual form of something from a decade or more ago. But what do you replace them with that will be any better when a lot of these things have no distinctive visual form anymore?
Anecdotal evidence: when I first encountered a floppy icon, its purpose wasn't obvious to me at all, despite I've already used a floppy before. See the Chinese writing example in this thread as well. Apparently, prior knowledge of the real-world object doesn't affect usability as much as other visual features of an icon.
This makes me believe that, in future,
1) younger generations won't have any trouble with icons that represent old things they'll never see;
2) icon design business is going to profit.
Even when the old-school icons were developed, the result for many things was a rectangular screen. Which is why they emphasized media or trappings, which had the useful side-effect of implying interaction. (bunny ears vs film strip vs VHS tape vs film camera)
As you correctly note, the problem now is that all media is digital. There are no distinctive trappings. There isn't anything to imply the interaction mode. (are you taking, browsing or sharing photos when you click on that picture icon? And when sharing, via what 'channel'? web service? email? mms?)
Further, we've never really had to worry about so many of these icons in a single app or on a single device before, because it was largely inconceivable that a single thing would do all of this to any acceptable degree. Even 10 years ago, what general purpose computing platform had all the features of a modern smartphone? Including access to multiple networks and services for transferring data at varying degrees of synchronicity -- think capture video vs broadcast video vs video chat. What app was commonly used by regular people to handle capture, editing, review and multiple sharing options for both photo and video?
A single glyph is simply not enough anymore. We can reasonably distinguish between text-in-a-box, still-in-a-box (cliche landscape) and video-in-a-box (stick figure with action lines). But we'll need multiple glyphs in combination to distinguish between video-to-be-streamed-down, video-to-be-broadcast, video-to-be-sent-via-email, video-to-be-captured, etc.
And this won't be too difficult. To some extent we're already doing this, with arrows and combo glyphs to distinguish between things like Save/Delete/Copy/Burn/Share.
I realize Scott's article was tongue-in-cheek, but this is all nothing to worry about. It just means that icons will have a history, an etymology, just like words, or Chinese pictograms, or, hell, even the symbols in our Latin alphabet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A
(Disclaimer: my ability to draw is very limited so this looks unintentionally minimalist, because my "boxes" are just squares.)
You could have some convention which says, say, "the present file is a sort of ball or rounded object, the filesystem is a box where we can put our balls, the clipboard is some sort of stack of stuff," and so forth. Phones could look more like mobiles do now, if you put them in a bit of perspective and gave them a keypad. Rather than using the page for a generic document, we have the ball for that purpose, so we use the page instead to indicate printing, since you're converting the ball into a piece of paper.
I think wrenches, magnifying glasses, and binoculars can stay as iconic things -- but since people now use magnifying glasses for "zoom" we should perhaps stabilize on binoculars for "search"/"find". (And come on, I'm not Sherlock Holmes. I'm not trying to find a clue, I'm trying to find last night's homework.)
Email is much trickier; if we don't keep using envelopes, I don't know how we would iconify that.
What's the most iconic image of search? Finding a needle in a haystack. Well, that won't do. Second most iconic image of search? Police searching a home. Looking for your keys. Rummaging couch cushions for change. Steal the Google logo.
Some ideas of search are okay, but don't play well with the other icons -- a piece of paper with text, one of the lines suddenly jumps to a fragment of blue text. (It works if your "find" highlights a word with a blue box when it finds it.)
The closest I have come to another good icon for search is to try to denote the question, "where is it?" This could be a question mark with the "box" which represents the filesystem. Perhaps many balls are shown coming out of the box. Or perhaps a stack of notecards with one of them being pulled out.
"Call" is different because I have too few ideas. A phone, perhaps. Two faces seen in profile could mean "converse" with the implication that there will be voice. Or an ear, perhaps, with its oblong shape. Telephone wires are iconic in parts of the US, but are an oddity abroad. And beyond that, I'm a bit lost.
The irony here is that he has no problem calling the device he uses a "computer", despite the older definition no longer holding true, or especially referring to "files", which is certainly not a term used in the old sense.
Dijkstra's "On the Cruelty of Really Teaching Computer Science" rails against analogies (the source of these terms) at length, but I'm not certain that there's much validity to the argument when the new meaning of the term eclipses the old one.
It would be a little like living in the Firefly universe but with more iPhones.
Now, if we had all the icons in all apps replaced consistently with Chinese simplified characters—that would be fun. I don't think it would be such a disaster (except to icon design business profits), after we rediscover how functions map to pictures again we'll continue to utilize UIs as usual. Admittedly a bit slower because of more complex hanzi shape, but without having to deal with badly designed or inconsistently used icons.
And also we'll be sure that when a new concept appears we will have an icon for that. If not—well, we'll start combining hanzi.
 An example of one such goof: http://plus.google.com/photos/108564542236590882918/albums/p...
For MacPaint with 8 functions it was great. For picking one of a dozen apps on an iPhone - fine.
But the last version of the 3D cad package I used had over 5000 commands - and each one of those was represented by a unique and (supposedly) intuitive icon!
That's getting close to the Chinese alphabet
> Want to indicate Settings or Setup to a twenty something? Show them a tool they've never used in their lives.
> If you don't know who Johnny Carson is, how could you know that this is a old-style microphone?
> No one under 30 has seen a Polaroid in years but we keep using them for icons.
We don't live in a cultural vacuum where everything that existed prior to our birth ceases to exist or be represented. We watch old movies, we watch old TV, we read old books and we see old photographs.
Some things go missing and some things stick around. The icons that stop having a useful meaning will either disappear or be transformed and some icons will come to be a somewhat abstract representation of what they do, even if they're based on things that existed in the past.
I don't understand people's obsession with telling everyone they should modernize their icons - if you think so, then you should do it. See how your users react.
Indeed, the author seems out of touch with the state of 20-somethings right now - if anything present-day 20-somethings are the most Polaroid-obsessed generation in quite some time. The market for old, restored Polaroid cameras has exploded in recent years. That iconic Polaroid camera icon on Instagram is quite recognizable to the youth of today.
As iconography this seems hardly relevant. When's the last time the author used a magnifying glass for real? Hell, even in the old days how often did people ever use magnifying glasses? But it certainly has no trouble being the universal symbol for "search".
This is the power of iconography - they are not the objects from which they are derived, and over time and use they take on meaning of their own.
The following items I've used in the past week: Clipboard, bookmark, calendar (physical), folder (physical), handset phone, envelope, screwdriver.
And in the past decade: a microphone that looks exactly like the one pictured (use plenty of slightly less retro ones all the time), a Polaroid camera, a magnifying glass, binoculars, a voicemail-inspiring cassette, an address book, a floppy disk.
Over time they may become more and more forgotten, but a lot of them aren't that old - I'm 22 and the radio-button radio is the only one on the list I've never used.
The floppy disk as an icon for save is a legitimate complaint, in the sense that it is early technology that has been deprecated by later technology, and [almost] nobody will ever use one again.
That said, good luck finding a new icon. The difficulty is that the concept of "saving" only came about with computers, and unlike zooming or even grouping things together in folders, finding a real-life pictorial representation of saving is... difficult.
But the others... The last time I checked, bookmarks, calendars, envelopes, magnifying glasses, and screwdrivers all exist in the real world and are used regularly by a lot of people, and they aren't going to go away any time soon.
Also, it's not hard to find microphones today that look a lot like the one in the icon.
Imagine how confused most people are seeing a tiny pig in the tool bar. It's an effort to get from "little pig" to "piggy bank" to "save". And that's for people with english as a first language.
"folders": we can go back to "directories" if you'd like. It's still what I say most of the time.
"wrenches/screwdrivers/gears": This was the most baffling one. Who's never used a screwdriver? And he says it as if it's obvious.
"phone": 75% of the US still has a landline (as of a year ago anyway), so I find "you haven't used this in 20 years" to be a rather dumb statement too.
"tv antenna": Antennas have actually come back recently when broadcast stations switched to digital and HD feeds. This would have been a better criticism ten years ago, and makes him the one that sounds out of date.
When I saw the article title, I figured "floppy disk" = "save". And sure, that's somewhat valid. But as others have pointed out, it's idiomatic. It happens in language all the time: people still say that someone is given "free rein" even if nobody involved has ever ridden a horse.
The page I linked was literally the first google image result for me, and that top cluster of images includes many recognizeable clip-art phones, all with the same rotary phone shape.
Even if he did, like the folders and envelopes he also mentions, corded phones which look like the picture are still quite common in office places and thus many peoples lives outside of silicon valley.
If it's a really good take - do they say that's "a burn to disk" - instead of a print?
Similarly, the very letters of our language evolved out of symbols that meant something to some humans long ago, just as words have an etymology.
People simply start to associate icon with action. Mail on my Mac is represented by a postage stamp. I never realized that until I just analyzed it. Good icons are subconscious like that.
log: "from log (n.1) which is so called because a wooden float at the end of a line was cast out to measure a ship's speed. General sense by 1913."
Honestly? I don't believe you. The postage stamp is in no way subtle - in fact, it couldn't be more obvious.
Or maybe they've learned all these icons and while not getting what they did mean, they understand what they mean now, like letters of a new alphabet. Like how many Asian script characters are descendants of more obvious pictograms of actions. They still have meaning even if they've evolved a bit and even changed.
> I tried this on my 9 and 13 year old nephews. I asked what does this button mean? "Save" they both answered immediately. Then I asked what the image looks like? They had no idea - not even a suggestion (which is fair since they haven't ever seen a disk). So I guess the meaning has overriden the image itself in the icon so we're stuck with it.
Save is going away.
Save As is going the way of "duplicate"/"fork".
I've been using that workflow for nearly a year now, and it's still driving me batty. It's inconvenient and backward, and I hope it gets reverted.
Most of the awkwardness in Lion came from the shortcut keys having been wrong and the effect having been jarring for its lack of vestigial commands to ease the minds of those not-yet-convinced.
My SO, though, finds it downright fantastic.
> Children invented their own vocabulary to define terms on the computer, for example,
“sui” (needle) for the cursor, “channels” for websites and “damru” (Shiva’s drum) for
the hourglass (busy) symbol.
In another of his papers, Prof Mitra wrote about how "aspirational learning" could be conducted, in the sense of letting children watch interesting and inspiring videos from TED Talks, et al, which would inspire kids to consider what they could do for the world with dreams, technology, and hard work. I think that's absolutely a great thing to spread. In too many places people don't do new things simply because they don't realise they are possible.
It's a common practice to look for it on Google images, i.e. "Save Icon", and see if there's a common metaphor. If not, you look for similar use cases - something so that it's much quicker for users to grok what it does.
That's the fundamental purpose after all.
This was the problem with Google/Android's new icons as well as GitHub. Google got caught up with minimization and left out the telling differentiators. Githup went nuts on illustration and lost the original meanings.
Even worse is the Easter-egg UIs that are becoming a widespread problem: There's no icon (or even control) at all until you accidentally roll the cursor over the area. WTF? Are users supposed to sweep across every pixel on the screen now, looking for hidden goodies?
In contrast, HN is a text-dominant application designed for text-dominant users...
Pinching to zoom in and out makes a lot of sense in my mind. Place your thumb and index finger at two points on a map/image/website. Those two points are two corners of a visual area. To make that visual area larger, expand the points outward. To make the area smaller, pinch inward. This conceptual mapping is very straightforward.
Generally when you farther back, items become more differentiated and easily identifiable. A lot of these cross over with computer icons - telephones, antennas, alarm clocks. I really wish I could find a good listing for this type of thing, but my google fu is failing me.
Take folders. They look like this: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/50/Earthwise.jpg
That makes it obvious where the symbol is coming from. The only problem is that those kinds of folders are not commonly used in Germany. I think I never saw a folder like that before I started using computers.
Folders look like this in Germany: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/Lever_arc...
The word that is used in Germany to refer to folders („Ordner“ in German) actually refers to ring binders.
Yet I had never a problem dealing with folders on computers, even though the visual metaphor was unfamiliar to me.
Similarly there are still plenty of microphones that look like that, they're professional microphones, not "old fashioned" ones.
What's the alternative, pick something abstract that confuses people. That didn't work out so well for the recent GMail redesign.
It's thousands of years old, thus despite our ability to record and learn from history, we should replace it with something more modern.
And crashed beige boxes for Windows machines mounted on Macs: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/media/2007/10/generi.... :-)
It doesn't really matter as long as it's roughly ubiquitous, which the floppy drive is. It doesn't even matter if no one's seen a floppy drive; if someone doesn't recognize what the floppy icon does, then the rest of their computer is new to them and they're learning. Once learned, forget about it.
Road signs for railway crossings still show steam trains. Men/Women signs for toilets show women in skirts that nobody wears, on images that hardly resemble people at all.
My car has a snowflake for the AC button, even though snow doesn't come out of the vents when you switch it on.
Interestingly, signs that ban music players in certain areas now look like Gen 1 iPods, even though a modern iPod (or any other player) doesn't have a clickwheel.
The point is that, iconography is meant to be clear and concise. As long as everyone agrees on what something stands for, then it doesn't matter what that is. Generally, that thing refers to a classic image of a thing, because the original shape will always be associated with the modern version.
It demonstrates to me that it doesn't matter what the icon is. What matters is convention. Nobody has to ever see the original as long as there is universal acceptance about what the icons mean.
I've wondered how non-english speakers learn Java. I don't think they really have to know what the translation for `public` and `class` are as long as they understand how they work.
Also, as a non native english speaker, I learned several words in english by programming. I remember seeing the word "if" out of a programming context for the first time, and I knew what it meant because I remembered of c++. :)
So yes, convention is more important. People will learn the convention and won't know why. Just like we don't know the exact etymology of every word, but we still can communicate fine. And when we do find how each word or icon was originated, it's interesting, but we honestly could live without it.
It's not a UK sign. Most Europeans will recognize it, but I doubt it travels well, and even where it has local currency, many peoples grandparents won't remember these in real life.
Then I realized it was a horn, and understood the connection. But only because I had once seen this faux historic mailbox in a SkyMall catalog or the like:
The post horn...used to signal the arrival or departure of a post rider or mail coach. It was used especially by postilions of the 18th and 19th centuries...The instrument is still used as the logo of national post services in many countries.
The logo I posted was for the German mail service, but you'll see variations of that image used to mean 'post' all over Europe, and in Australia.
Envelopes are still used for lots of things. I still get mail.
I use screwdrivers pretty often, and I have access to wrenches.
I recognize the old microphones from movies (and even if I didn't, they look similar to newer mics.)
I've also used a polaroid in the past 5 years.
I've also seen TV sets with "rabbit ears" in the past 5 years.
The others I'm at least familiar with.
See the difference?
"When things, signs or actions are freed from their respective ideas, concepts, essences, values, points of reference, origins and aims, they embark upon an endless process of self-reproduction. Yet things continue to function long after their ideas have disappeared, and they do so in total indifference to their own content. The paradoxical fact is that they function even better under these circumstances."
Jean Baudrillard from "The Transparency of Evil"
Exactly as radley says. The rectangle in my quote here means '[send] email' (whic itself is anachronistic; emessage?).
Out computer verbs are based off of (admittedly, maybe outdated) similar verbs. Our electronic work mirrors our physical work solely because of the limitations of our language constructs. I have it on good authority that there is not a single language that has words that that specifically define what we do on a computer that would be better suited and more efficient than a physical-describing counterpart.
So, as mentioned earlier, the floppy metaphor: OK, I get it. But clipboards, bookmarks, Manila folders? How would you describe an object that lets you take information from one place to another in 32px? What physical object are you aware of that allows you to mark your place amidst a vast density of information? Don't even get me started on the folders.
It's coy to label them "old-people icons" -- it's clever, I dig it -- but if tomorrow we were to unveil a new set of nouns and verbs to describe computer objects, the reigning argument would be that they never made sense at all.
And have fun trying to explain to your grandfather/mother/nephew how to uses computer without having any real-world jargon to borrow from.
"Discover" is made of "dis-cover", meaning "remove the things covering the other thing." The "inter" in "interaction" implies movement between objects in a physical space. To "take advantage" evokes physically grasping something.
Perhaps this is more philosophical than you wanted, but I doubt we'll be leaving behind physical metaphors anytime soon.
I agree some of the actual system specific icons and metaphors are outdated and junk, but I guess I'm in the camp that thinks these basic metaphors are actually useful in the education of computer interface / mechanisms.
They might have been metaphors once, now they are idioms.
The people who "have never known a world without computers" have also never known a world where there weren't filesystem folders and files.
I can't remember the last time I saw a save icon in any of the software I use. Not because saving has gone away, but because it's so fundamental to document-based applications that it doesn't need a dedicated button to call it out, and having one just wastes space. Saving isn't special functionality requiring an icon - you either use File>Save, or Cmd/Ctrl-S, or even just close the document and follow the prompt to save.
Copy, paste, open, these things don't need to take up valuable interface space as if they're some novelty functionality that uses must carefully be introduced to. We don't need a new save icon, because we don't need a save icon at all.
A general tone of "isn't this interesting" rather than "isn't this stupid", might reduce the negative reactions.
It never occurred to me before that the use of physical objects for software functionality may be transitory. Clearly these icons do work today (and their use is not stupid), but it's probably a matter of time that a new approach may be needed.
What have screwdrivers and wrenches been replaced with?
(cynical) A trash can followed by a trip to Wal-Mart.
Isn't the whole idea of updating traditions a little silly. They're traditions. We don't follow them because they make sense. We follow them because the people before us followed them.
100 years from now we'll still need a symbol to conceptualize saving something. The other ones might go away but we'll probably still need to save our work. I expect the floppy to still symbolize this. The users at the time will not understand what a floppy is. But unless there is good reason to upend convention why bother.
Just look at all the linguistic idioms we retain from yesteryear.
I don't have any axe to grind with icons. But tradition is nothing to sneeze at. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
(I'd draw an analogy to "Why do we inherently understand menu items written in English?" We don't inherently understand them (witness non-English speakers); we just get to draw on our existing familiarity with English to make the understanding easier.)
> I don't see any reason that we couldn't be storing our files in abstract squares rather than folders in the sky.
...because they're called folders, and we know how to use them? If I said, "Here, have a square," is your first instinct really to think oh! that must be for putting stuff in/on? Sure, you can abstract them to just a symbol but it's unnecessary. It's not like the system cares what you call it or how you choose to display it.
> The world's most advanced phones include an icon that looks like a phone handset that you haven't touched in 20 years, unless you've used a pay phone recently.
I have in fact, but that's not the point. Again, we know the shape. There aren't many things it could be besides a phone. You could show someone a glossy brick I guess, but what good would that do? The best alternative I can think of would be something like a speaker or microphone, but where's the argument that that would actually be better?
> At some time in the past the magnifying glass became the "search everywhere" icon, but for some reason binoculars are for searching within a document.
I'm just now realizing that he must be thinking of a specific piece of software. I gathered he was on Windows, now I see he worked at MS. Is this Office? This one I agree with, but it sounds like a quirky error made by some engineer or perhaps phony UX consultant. Same goes for the clipboard– hell if I know why MS would use that icon for paste, but in no other software that I can think of is that normal.
Same thing as folders. So our terminology expanded to cover abstract digital entities, but that doesn't make it a hinderance to our intuition. Folders, packages, envelopes... maybe they're too nostalgic for the bold futurist, but generally it's about as practical as you can get.
> Wrenches and Gears
Who hasn't used a screwdriver? Or never seen a wrench? Even the people who don't own one probably know what it is. I'm indifferent to the gears/tools thing. It still makes sense, but I'm open to new ideas– preferably a little more clever than a circuitboard.
For speech recognition, would an ear be better? I think most people would get the microphone bit simply from watching cartoons, talkshows, album covers etc... but I admit this will likely be more foreign in the future, and is already disconnected from people in developing countries without that much media exposure (although they apparently have an iPhone/Pad/Pod).
It's kitsch. It still makes sense because the alternative to a square with a border is a square without a border. But for all of us who still use medium/large format cameras from time to time or for work, we can simply pretend. Lenses are a-OK.
Actually, for the large number of people who gave up cable for hulu and netflix but still want to catch the news– yes! I do have rabbit ears! Maybe it's a little too retro for most video icons, but again– it till makes sense, it just may be better suited to apps that show live broadcasts.
> Carbon Copies and Blueprints
Eh, so the term's (carbon copy) a bit outdated. But then again, when was the last time I "pasted" a document together? Yeah, Drawing I. As for blueprints... it makes sense for XCode right? And CAD. We may not use blueprints so often anymore, but it's less ambiguous than "construction documents," which might as well be "layouts". Which might as well be squares with a shape on them. Etc...
Basically, this would be a far more interesting post if the author would go further into making actual suggestions. Some of it makes sense because it's intuitive, some of it makes sense because we're used to it. If you want to correct the latter, you've got to show something what's better.
Edit: ouch, that's an ugly post. Not sure if I can format it in any way.
Also, I'm looking forward to seeing what people suggest in the discussion here. It's an interesting topic for sure (and I'm sure there will be plenty of people to disagree with me).
Actually the post points out something interesting - we are in the midst of a transformation from a pictorial communication system to an ideographic language where the connection between symbol and signified becomes arbitrary. Nothing wrong with that "arbitrariness", but the visual language continues to evolve - maybe we'll see a paper clip icon even in "Avengers"-like interfaces for this reason.
(edit: fixed typos)
To give an example, the word "microphone" has only been used to represent modern microphones since 1929. The term referred to the mouthpiece for a telephone between 1929 and ~1878, and from ~1878 until 1683, it described ear trumpets.
Historically they were called directories, which I would love to see a return to from the wrong and infantilizing "folders".
1: filesystem > directories > files
2: Desktop > Folders > Documents
They're both models for (basically) the same thing. The technical incorrectness of folder doesn't interfere with usage in real scenarios, unless you expect Average Joe to be structuring data as opposed to, say, collecting media. Granted, if Average Joe had mild OCD and thought of everything he did as indexes and references to some abstract node then directories clearly makes more sense, but that would be a separate system divorced from the desktop abstraction.
Edit: Being young of course none of this is really hammered in by convention– maybe that's why I don't mind the two abstractions coexisting. Even if the terminology originated in a Windows era, it doesn't bother me in the least that Mac (and others) use it as well (for the reasons stated above).
Why yes, yes I do. Desktop environments are all attempted answers to the question "why is a computer like a writing desk?" The question is absurd in its own right, but carries additional absurdity baggage such as calling all files "documents". A movie is not a document. A computer program in binary form is not a document.
All of my machines boot into bare-ass window managers -- typically either awesome or WindowMaker. It's simple, cruft-free, and leaves more room for the programs I want to run. Aside from the shell I find an activity-based model for launching programs -- such as found in iOS, Android, OLPC, and even Windows 3.1 for pete's sake -- to be infinitely preferable to the document-centric desktop model, which assumes that the user can't fathom a computer without the machine pretending that it is some older, non-computing, manually-operated piece of office equipment.
Even if the terminology originated in a Windows era -- it didn't. It started with the 1984 Macintosh. Funny that, even Apple is moving toward an activity-based model for iOS.
The desktop model's heyday may be passing right in front of us, but more likely than not the consequences are going to lead towards even higher level abstractions. For fertility, and for clarity (so that engineers can talk to engineers, and everyone else doesn't get mistaken for a really stupid engineer).
Because Poe raved on both?
Probably too late. I work with nice guys, progammers in their late 20s, mid-30s, who have only ever known those as 'folders'.
By convention at work if it's on a unix-y OS it's a directory, if Windows it's a folder. It's just easier that way.
Besides, if you're a programmer on Windows, even if you're really young and started with .NET, I'm pretty sure the API and the MSDN docs still consistently use "directory" throughout.
And yes, the floppy disk. Whenever I want to feel old I ask one of them if they know what that icon is, and whether they ever seen one. Best answer: "Yes ... I think I saw one at my grandmother's house ..."
Then I tell them it would fit barely half an mp3 and tell them how many you'd need for the same storage as this 2GB Micro-SD the size of my fingernail :D I love living in the future!
Until someone trumps the performance of condensor microphones in the studio, this form will remain a current and accepted form for speech input.
That's easy. When you copy something you place it onto the clipboard, when you past it you are pulling a copy off the clipboard.
So "copy and paste" or "copy and glue". How does pasting go with copying? I copy something to the clipboard (...whatever) and then copy it from the clipboard to my document. How is that like gluing something? It really makes no sense.
And then I remember cutting. "Cut and paste" makes more sense. You might cut something out of a magazine and glue it onto a collage. Okay.
But the point is that none of this matters. "Paste" is a new word that means to copy something from your "clipboard" to the current location. It's not a metaphor anymore, it's a thing in its own right. A new definition for an old word.
What's the point in inventing a new term for something, when this one makes sense and is widely understood?
The entire internet was AOL! It took 30 minutes from the time you turned on the computer to the time you loaded your first website. That is when you got all your thinking done!
As pointed out by Mike Kazarnowicz in the comments of Scott's post.
Coincidence or cherry-picking?
And when did we all get rid of wrenches? I didn't get that memo.
Conventions hang on for generations because speaking a common language is more important than being up to date.
To me, icons indicating actions (save, print, etc) work well when they depict (wholly or partly) a physical object that is obviously used to enact that action. I assume that this is because our visual cortex is tuned to recognise physical objects that do actions, not visual representations of actions themselves. We see a depiction of a hammer and know that its for driving nails, but its hard to depict driving nails without depicting a hammer. You could presumably do it (i'm not a graphic designer) but you're making people work harder to understand your depiction.
The problem is that sometimes changes in the world result in the recognisable physical object no-longer being recognisable and/or physical.
This can happen we make an action abstract ("save to floppy" becomes "save to cloud storage"), virtualise an action ("pick up phone and talk" becomes "make skype call using laptop"), or merge a once-external object into a multi-function object ("save to floppy" becomes "save to internal disk"). (What others have I missed?)
I don't know what to do about this. You could use a logo or graphical device/convention to indicate actions (e.g. skype logo indicates make a voice call) but you're also increasing the cognitive load on the user of the interface and increasing visual clutter.
Also, if you want to talk about outdated terminology, theres "disk" and "drive". These are being incorrectly applied to flash/solid state storage. They do apply to hard disk drives, and optical media.
Because the document is public, and you don't want work-in-progress to be shared until it is complete?
Printed books aren't going anywhere in the foreseeable future (and I'm pretty sure all young people know what they are, even if they're not really into reading); the (Exchange-connected VoIP) phone on my desk at the office still has a handset shaped exactly like the icon; and what kind of magical sci-fi world does the author live in where no mechanical device requires gears any more, or where wrenches aren't necessary for basic home repairs?
We've been adapting old idioms to new uses since long before everything turned into a computer.
a) Something to do with journey planning/directions, or
b) Some new in-car technology
When I saw it was neither of those, I presumed the cloud storage service had been named in the same way razors are named, i.e. "puts you in the driving seat" sort of thing.
It was only several hours later did it occur to me that, OMG, they mean like a FLOPPY DISK DRIVE? Yikes.
"Drive" is not really a word I've heard used in relation to storage for years. Mainly because we only think about the distinction between disk and drive when the two can be parted, like a floppy disk drive. Put the disk in the drive. Most removable media is USB-based these days, so the term isn't used.
I guess in 1990s-era Windows NT networks you'd be told to save your work to "the M: drive" or such, but yeah, 1990s.
To me it's a moronic product name. "I'll save that to my Google Drive!" Sure thing, you do that Grandpa.
Google Storage would have been a more descriptive name, but it'll be a while until we get rid of our C: and D: drives.
One could argue that it's actually faster to parse words than icons sometimes (don't know what traffic sign planners would think about that)
Take a look at these ones that show up when you select text in Android ICS:
What on earth do they mean? I've been using ICS since January and I still don't know what they do except for the cut one. Because there's no way for them to show tooltips on hovering the only way to learn is to press it and try and work out what it just did.
Oh, I never used ICS, so it's not because I tried them.
A tin (can) is still a tin despite the fact it has nothing to do with the element today, a light bulb has no bulb any more. The floppy=save isn't going anywhere.
That being said, Polaroid-inspired icons are probably not ideal for every use.
"Hey Ya!" was released in 2003, nine years ago, and the exact same year that Dell finally removed floppy drives from its computers.
Still in production, but only familiar to pros in their late 20s and older...
And yes my TV has rabbit ears, only they are the wifi antennas on my router :)
His best example is "world wide", which he put forward should really be "world around" since we all now know that the earth is a globe and not flat.
Now I'm trying to figure out if I'm stupid or not.
Reminds me of an anecdote I read about an elementary school that had a rotary phone for the kids to use well after digital phones were the norm. The kids had to be taught how to use it. One child ultimately concluded it was not too different from a digital phone though it was real slow.
Reminds me of my standard flippant remark to my sons when they were growing up: "When I was a child and had a pet dinosaur and rotary phone." To my young sons, both dinosaurs and rotary phones were "prehistoric" -- I.e. existed before their time. For me, only dinosaurs were actually prehistoric.
(More sinecerely: Thanks for responding.)
The simple reason the save icon still looks like a floppy disk is because everyone expects it to look like that.
seriously - there's some good points made here, including:
"The floppy disk icon is an idiom, not a metaphor. It doesn't matter that we're no longer writing files on 1.44MB 3.5" disks. It doesn't matter that many users don't even know what a floppy disk is. What matters is that users associate the icon with saving." -- Patrick McElhaney
And a little OT remark about the so called "dead tree format" - it helps hide the fact that e-books might actually be more harmful to the planet than "dead tree" ones (think carbon imprint).
What would be the point, though? Surely the floppy disk icon has more meaning now as "save" than as the original metaphor of "save to floppy disk." Besides, SD cards are outdated now - I think the only thing of mine which uses it is my camera, and I never actually remove the card. I would guess that more people would recognize the floppy disk than the sd card.
The really interesting point - that there are more and more icons that truly are becoming "icons" in a more metaphorical sense of the word - was already made quite poignantly by the tweet.
Being anachronistic isn't inherently a flaw. However, if our attachment to anachronism is preventing us from using more intuitive icons, then our bias toward anachronism is something we should examine critically.
So, the real question is: are there more intuitive visual representations available for common computer actions? What does an e-mail address book look like?
Remember that A didn’t start as an A, it started as a sign for ox. That’s right, our writing system had skeuomorphic origins.
Someone growing up today might not know what a handset it, but I’m pretty sure they recognize the handset icon. This is true for a lot of stuff in our culture (think of non-textual road signs).
I'll bet many people here have never heard a broken record, but still have heard the phrase "sounds like a broken record."
The old icons are fine.
Someone who hasn't used a computer before isn't going to know that a floppy disk icon means save, even if they have seen a one before and know what it is used for. For all they know it's means open a file.
And for non-English speakers, is it really harder to learn what 'print' means than consulting a cheat sheet for what the icons mean?
For most of the gui programs I use, I have to hover the mouse over the icon till the tooltip comes up so I know what it does.
Programmers know why, but users don't. Same goes for icons: designers know what they're doing & why...
Munch munch! It's fun to play stupid, right?
When icons fail to be understood, they can fail hard. I spent a lot of time frustrated with the new gmail design until I changed the icons to text.
A more humanistic approach would be to save versioned history of everything you do and then "save" by marking points in time as versions you would like to share with other people or systems.
When something else becomes iconic that replaces it.
Sorry this whole rambling note is further evidence that old people (and their icons) don't make sense anymore.
The headline refers to "people icons" that are old. I went to see how many people icons there could even be. Turns out that what he really means is old-people icons.
After reviewing the author, filed under: Comedy!