The Floppy Disk Icon means "save" for a whole generation of people who have never seen one. — Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) May 9, 2012
The Floppy Disk Icon means "save" for a whole generation of people who have never seen one.
What happens when all the things we based our icons on don't exist anymore? Do they just become, ahem, iconic glyphs whose origins are shrouded in mystery?
Save? Save where? You know, down there. Adding the Arrow to the 3.5" floppy makes me smile. Is it pointing to under my desk? What's a floppy? Why not a USB key? Maybe a cloud icon? That will be easy since there is only One Cloud Icon in the world.
Why are they called Radio Buttons? Because my car radio used to have buttons where only one could be pressed at any time. I miss my 8-track.
Seriously, short of a doctor's office or the DMV when are we coming in contact with clipboards? And why is the clipboard the icon for Paste? Why not Copy? Or "fill out form?
We used to use smaller flat dead trees to keep our place in between the dead trees we would read from so that we didn't lose our page. No, books didn't "keep our place when we turned them off."
We would write down all our addresses and phone numbers in a dead tree and carry it around with us. Sometimes we'd manage our calendar that way also. Everything was bound together with metal spiral loops. Let me check my Filofax.
I assume that the Voicemail icon is supposed to be evocative of reel to reel tapes but it always look like a container of 110 Film. I suspect my voicemail is no longer stored on spooled magnetic tape. No, you've never seen either of these before, young person. #getoffmylawn
I suppose the kids use Pee Chees still these days? I use folders because I use the 43 Folders organizational system but I don't see any reason that we couldn't be storing our files in abstract squares rather than folders in the sky.
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. (What's that?)
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. This makes no sense as magnifying glasses are for searching things that are near and binoculars imply breadth of search and distance. These two commands should have had their icons reversed!
Soon the envelope itself will go away and the next generation will wonder what this rectangle means and what it has to do with email. We'll still put other arrows and icons on top of these icons to mean reply, forward, delete, and other things. "Daddy, what's a 'stamp'?"
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. Instagram sold for $1B with an icon whose subtlety was lost on its target audience. "Shake it like a Polaroid picture."
Does your TV have "rabbit ears?"
I'll "cc" you on that email. Last time I made a carbon copy I was using a mimeograph to do it.
What other icons do we use while the original inspiration fades into obscurity?
Note: If one of these icons is yours let me know and I'll link to your site. I found all these and haven't been able to attribute all of them.
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.