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Author Topic: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.  (Read 1859 times)

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Offline MoonHunter

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http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPeopleIconsThatDontMakeSenseAnymore.aspx

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 Disks, Radio Buttons, Voice Mail's Reel to Reel, Handset, Old Style Microphones, and other things that you might have to explain to people younger to yourself (or need someone like me to explain it to you).
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Offline Scrasamax

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2012, 08:45:51 AM »
Sort of like trying to explain why the qwerty keyboard has two enter keys right next to each other, and sometimes the top one is called the return key.


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Offline Chaosmark

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2012, 11:19:24 AM »
Sort of like trying to explain why the qwerty keyboard has two enter keys right next to each other, and sometimes the top one is called the return key.

*cough* The difference between "\r\n" and "\n" actually is pretty important if you're dealing with the raw characters...
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

By the power of Bayes!

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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2012, 01:19:16 PM »
Sort of like trying to explain why the qwerty keyboard has two enter keys right next to each other, and sometimes the top one is called the return key.

I only learned that the enter key on the numberpad is different from the one next to the rest of the keys when I was trying to use a terminal emulator for an HP 3000 (the programs were written in COBOL, no less) on a laptop without a numberpad. I had to do some frantic googling in order to figure out how to send that particular type of "enter" so that I could finish troubleshooting a problem while on the road.

That reminds me... I think I can finally burn my COBOL books now that that lovely piece of machinery has been mined for its copper.  :twisted:

*cough* The difference between "\r\n" and "\n" actually is pretty important if you're dealing with the raw characters...

Sadly, the ease of chomp is one of the few things I missed about Perl when I moved to Python.
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Offline Chaosmark

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2012, 08:46:47 PM »
Sadly, the ease of chomp is one of the few things I missed about Perl when I moved to Python.

Using files as iterators gives you the individual lines, regardless of the line endings...Not quite so easy as a simple function call, but close enough for every time I've needed to parse line-by-line (especially since you can totally use the StringIO class to emulate a file and get the same functionality from regular variables).
P(A|B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B)

By the power of Bayes!

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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2012, 08:12:01 AM »
Sadly, the ease of chomp is one of the few things I missed about Perl when I moved to Python.

Using files as iterators gives you the individual lines, regardless of the line endings...Not quite so easy as a simple function call, but close enough for every time I've needed to parse line-by-line (especially since you can totally use the StringIO class to emulate a file and get the same functionality from regular variables).

In Python iterating over a file is easy, but you often still have to determine the style of newline. In Perl, the chomp function lets you remove newlines without worrying about the type of line ending. Perl is easily the king when it comes to manipulating text; I just found Python to be a better all-around toolkit, especially for larger projects. Plus, I can still read it a year later :P
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Offline MysticMoon

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2012, 12:44:44 PM »
http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPeopleIconsThatDontMakeSenseAnymore.aspx

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 Disks, Radio Buttons, Voice Mail's Reel to Reel, Handset, Old Style Microphones, and other things that you might have to explain to people younger to yourself (or need someone like me to explain it to you).


I've seen this come up in a few places and it raises a couple of extra thoughts for me.

First, why is it an issue to have a slight learning curve for icons that you will encounter over and over again? To me, having a set "standard" for icons means that I only have to learn them once and then I can learn to use a completely different program that much quicker. If it becomes a free-for-all of different icons for different apps then it will be annoying to learn the quirks of each one until they settle into a new standard (which will likely be overturned as those lose their original meaning.) As a note, some of the existing icons were not all that intuitive when I first encountered them, but now I don't have to waste any thought on it. Also, as a user of Vim, when I see people complaining about such a simple learning curve I have to chuckle to myself. (But then, maybe I'm just starting to pass into my curmudgeonly IT phase.)

Second, this is part of a larger shakeup that I see going on in the tech world. Some of it makes me nervous and some of it makes me excited. The explosion of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are affecting the standard desktop. Everyone from Apple to Microsoft to several big Linux players are trying to bring touch to the desktop and even questioning standard ways of interacting with the operating system. The partial explanation for this change that I tend to agree with is that this is occurring because the desktop market has been saturated. People don't replace their desktops/laptops nearly as often as they used to, so the big focus is on where the growth market is. Some people see this trend and claim that the desktop will be replaced by mobile devices, but I think they are missing point: the desktop market isn't dying, it's mature; but these companies follow the growth so it appears to some as though that is where *everything* is happening.

While I still get excited about the advance of technology, more and more I find myself questioning the act of change for its own sake. That probably means I have less than 10 years before I'm sitting on my porch with the shotgun and yelling at the kids to get off my lawn :P

When I look at far-future sci-fi, it makes me wonder what it will be like in a few hundred years. Will technology continue to develop and change at the same pace? At a reduced pace? Will it eventually stagnate and just become something that's "been that way for as long as anyone remembers it" while they look at the history books (ebooks? something else?) describing these years as a time of pioneers and explorers? Of course, some of those far-future sci-fi books that were written in my lifetime talked about things like personal microfiche readers and mobile devices that could hold multiple *Megabytes* of information...
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Offline dark_dragon

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Re: The Floppy Disk means Save, and 14 other icons that don't make sense.
« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2012, 11:00:43 AM »
I think, in the end, the glyphs we use for recording, voicemail, save, etc... are just that, glyphs. Their original meaning is completely irrelevant, as they have now become symbols for the action the stand for.

What I'm saying is, we're converting pictogams into ideograms, and used those to supplement our alphabets. I'm ok with that, especially if these ideograms are cross-cultural.

This isn't much different from the evolution of the various modern alphabet, by the way. For example the Hanzi character for mountain: 山 represents the three peaks of a mountain range. The latin alphabet has similar roots, which are murkier because it is much older than Hanzi:

Code: [Select]
Proto-writing earlier than 4000 BCE
    -> Early Cuneiform (pictographs) 4000 BCE
    -> Late Cuneiform (logographs/syllabic) 2500BCE
    -> Phoenician (abjad) 1050 BCE
    -> Greek (alphabet) 800 BCE
    -> Latin (alphabet) ~700 BCE

Compare to the logographs/syllabic stage of Hanzi.

I will say that a WikiWalk on the history of writing is fascinating.

Also, you're not becoming curmudgeonly at all. I'm a very happy twenty four year old Vim user who hasn't used a visual file browser in over two years (not by choice, anyway). I can navigate waaayyyy faster in the shell, and am never more than two keystrokes away from it.  I too, chuckle softly when I hear people say that the office banner is hard to understand.

Well, no, actually. I don't chuckle. A wave of sadness washes over me until I remember this is the reason I get paid so well. If people could understand technology, I'd be out of a job!  :shock:

Also, I'd bet my life that back in ancient Sumer, The exact same debate was raging on about the use of pictograms that were not meaningful anymore. The Hipster/Curmudgeon debate has a long and illustrious history, you see...

PS: Every conversation I have had recently eventually devolved into a discussion of programming languages. Not sure if this is a good thing, or if I desperately need to get some 'normal' friends. :wink:
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