Friday, May 11, 2012

The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other old people Icons that don't make sense anymore


Something really interesting to me, and I definitely had to post this as a reference for my kids in future.  

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?

Floppy Disk - Save

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.
  disksave

Radio Buttons - Mutually Exclusive Choices

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.
AM Radio from Gina Hogan Edwards' Blog  The Shutdown Windows Dialog

Clipboards

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?
The Paste Icon with a Clipboard

Bookmarks

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."
A bookmark in a book

Address Books and Calendars

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.
An address book with a spiral binderA calendar with a spiral binder

Voicemail

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
iPhone Voicemail IconReel to Reel Tape110 Camera Film

Manila Folder

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.
Manilla Folders in the CloudsManila Folders are where you put thingsManila Folders

Handset Phone Icon

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?)

iPhone Phone IconAnd old phone handset plugged into an old cell phone

Magnifying Glass and Binoculars

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!
The Find icon from Word
A magnifiying glass  A black and white icon of binoculars

Envelopes

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'?"

Envelope Various Envelopes with arrows superimposed on them

Wrenches and Gears - Setup/Settings

Want to indicate Settings or Setup to a twenty something? Show them a tool they've never used in their lives.
iPhone Settings is a set of gearsScrewdriver and Wrench crossed

Microphones

If you don't know who Johnny Carson is, how could you know that this is a old-style microphone?
Old timey microphone
The Siri icon is an old time radio microphone

Photography

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."

Instagram IconStack of Polaroids

Televisions

Does your TV have "rabbit ears?"
A bunch of TVs with CRTs and

Carbon Copies and Blueprints

I'll "cc" you on that email. Last time I made a carbon copy I was using a mimeograph to do it.
Carbon CopyBlueprints and Carbon Copies

What other icons do we use while the original inspiration fades into obscurity?

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