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Icons That Don't Make Sense Anymore

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the techno-hieroglyphics dept.

GUI 713

theodp writes "The Floppy Disk Icon, observes Scott Hanselman, means 'save' for a whole generation of people who have never seen one. That, and other old people icons that don't make sense anymore — Radio Buttons, Clipboards, Bookmarks, Address Books and Calendars, Voicemail, Manila Folder, Handset Phone, Magnifying Glass and Binoculars, Envelopes, Wrenches and Gears, Microphones, Photography, Televisions, Carbon Copies and Blueprints — are the subject of Hanselman's post on icons that are near or past retirement age, whose continued use is likely to make them iconic glyphs whose origins are shrouded in mystery to many."

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Old Icons (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983629)

Really, who gives a shit

Re:Old Icons (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983649)


I am old (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983633)


floppy disc (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983639)

I'm 22 and old as fuck...
Got to love tech.

Awesome! (5, Funny)

rwa2 (4391) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983641)

Let's start a concerted effort to replace them all with emoticons and lolspeak! It's the only language the younger generation understands nowadays, and it will surely withstand the test of time, at least until everyone (or at least the majority of the world's population) speaks Chinese.

file save: => 101010
radio buttons -> mutually exclusive buttons: oooOoo
clipboards -> tablets: [_]
bookmarks -> googling: [I'm feeling lucky]
Address books -> meatspace latitude: #
Calendars -> evites: [why are you late!]
Voicemail -> audiospam: (_o.O_)
Manila folder -> tag: [_^gt;
Handset phone -> smartphone: [_]-
Magnifying glass -> antburner: --O
Binoculars -> autofilter: >-
Envelopes -> GPG header: -- GPG Block --
Wrenches -> Text XML settings: <?xml?>
Gears -> Binary XML settings: 0_o
Microphones -> smartphones: [_]-
Photography -> smarthpones: [_]-
Televisions -> tablets: [_]
Carbon Copies -> DRM: Unskippable [FBI WARNING:]
Blueprints -gt; code: .cpp

OK, that was easy, next!

Re:Awesome! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983715)

Did you design a linux GUI already? If not, you're hired!

Re:Awesome! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983921)

You sound like a bitter old loon to me. And I'm almost 30. Just because the icons we have now are no longer useful does not mean that they're trying to dumb it down to lol and txtspeak versions. Nor does every (or even the majority) kid fit your stereotype, only the loudest do.

Re:Awesome! (5, Funny)

ifiwereasculptor (1870574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983987)

Too hard. Why not just update the devices icons allude to, as to avoid any confusion?

file save: => microSD card
radio buttons -> monolith-shaped smartphone
clipboards -> monolith-shaped tablet
bookmarks -> monolith-shaped... eReader?
Address books -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Calendars -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Voicemail -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Manila folder -> microSD card
Handset phone -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Magnifying glass -> that one is still ok
Binoculars -> also ok
Envelopes -> microSD card
Wrenches -> drawing of a $company employee
Gears -> drawing of a $company employee
Microphones -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Photography -> monolith-shaped smartphone
Televisions -> monolith-shaped tablet
Carbon Copies -> microSD card
Blueprints -> open source monolith-shaped smartphone/tablet

Re:Awesome! (5, Interesting)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984059)

You are missing the point:

No one has the slightest idea what the icons are. Now that screens have higher resolutions, they cant see them anyway.

What we need is drop down menus with words in and not that blasted Unity crap.

Re:Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984019)

so you think if everyone will start use an "iPhone" or Galaxy as there icon to replace Handsets, no body is suing anyone for "it looks black with round corners" ?

Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983653)

Increasing the number of symbols and words coming into usage and those going into obsolescence.

When watching 'TV' do teenagers still say 'turn' the 'channel'?

Re:Technology (1)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983739)

No, they say change the channel

Re:Technology (1)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983765)

Growing up (born in '80), we had a cable controller box on a cord that reached to the couch, and it was controlled by toggle buttons (I want to say A, B, and C columns, and then you would select one of twenty channels in the appropriate column, for a total of sixty).

So that was my really verbose way of saying that even though I am old, "turn the channel" never entered my vocabulary.

Re:Technology (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983877)

I think I still have a VCR in the basement that has a remote control with a 20' wire on it instead of using IR.

Re:Technology (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983881)

32 is OLD now? I though 50 was the new 40.

Re:Technology (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984067)

My father had a remote when I was growing up: me.

The tuner on the Crosley was a cylinder with parallel rows of contacts; every ten years or so, one yanked it out and cleaned the contacts with a standard school rubber eraser. The set was bought in '55 and only retired in '79 in favor of a color one. Towards the end it could get interesting replacing a tube, most drugstores no longer had a tube tester and spares. :)

Re:Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983911)

TV? Teenagers stream or download stuff from the internet.

Drop the confusing pictures (0)

korpique (807933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983657)

Text all the way.

Most of those images were invented only because it was expected at the time to have a picture for every action, which was kikd of stupid in first place.

Re:Drop the confusing pictures (4, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983691)

not when your screen resolution at best was 640x480, and you had dozens of actions on the toolbar

Re:Drop the confusing pictures (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983985)

Very stupid. It's similar to how knights in the middle ages didn't wear specific colours and emblems on their shields and jackets, no not at all, but rather had their names written on them in itty bitty letters.

Re:Drop the confusing pictures (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984095)

Since they were all illiterate, I am fairly sure that would not have worked. Even the pubs had signs because the customers were too pissed to read.

In any case, with only two knights to chose from, or three pubs in the village, the signs did not need to differ much. Computers can (mostly) do more than two or three things, or they could if I could recognise more than two or three of the icons.

Since 1492, most people who can afford a computer, have also learned to read, and drop down text menus work pretty well.

Re:Drop the confusing pictures (4, Insightful)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984081)

Icons are originally designed to resemble what they mean; making it easier to recognize and remember what they mean. Besides, icons (and pictures in general) can code much more information in a small space; this is a reflection of our incredible abilities to recognize shapes, colours and textures. On the other hand, text don't allow such mechanisms: words have the same overall shape and their meaning is heavily based on conventions. For instance, some people know how to justify text in Word, but they have no clue that the word for that is "justify". Finally, some icons end up becoming sort of general symbols, where the meaning is defined by convention (this very article talk about this). In this case, they are still more useful then text because, as I said, encoding meaning in visual features is generally more efficient then using words.

Re:Drop the confusing pictures (3, Insightful)

Capt. Skinny (969540) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984117)

Agreed. In a split second I can recognize text in a wide variety of fonts. Don't make me take an extra second to think about what your specific icon does -- or far, far, worse, make me take an extra four seconds to hover the mouse over it for a tool tip because you wanted to get super creative with the icons.

First it was Microsoft and replacing text menus for the ribbon, now Google and replacing text on Gmail buttons with icons. There's a war on usability and its instigators are UI designers.

"Old people icons" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983659)

Old people are the only ones who need icons to map directly to physical objects they're familiar with. Younger people simply learn the meanings of the icons directly, and they can look them up on Google or Wikipedia if they're curious about the icons' history.

Re:"Old people icons" (2)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984087)

Came here to say this. We still "record" things even though we don't use records. Why should this be any different?

Let's see now... (5, Informative)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983665)

Microphones...still used everywhere, they've just changed their shape.
Magnifying Glasses..still used to see small things, or did I miss out on the genetic change given people 20-10 eyesight.
Binoculars...see Magnifying glasses [I suppose they are less common just because fewer people seem to be spending time experiencing the great outdoors]., what Universe is this tool living in?
Wrenches and Gears...I guess once everyone now over 30 dies, civilization ends or everything has switched to using magnets

Re:Let's see now... (5, Insightful)

HEMI426 (715714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983699)

I'm somewhat scared that people have never had to use a wrench to fix anything. Most of the self-respecting geeks I know are also gearheads... No one is a musician any more? Microphones are unknown to most people? I agree...What Universe is this tool living in?

Re:Let's see now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983735)

Photography...we take more pictures now than ever before, although only high-end cameras look like cameras from the old days still there and relatively often used, atleast here

Re:Let's see now... (2)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983771)

For the television icon, at least, it's directly related to the rabbit-ears issue - no one uses them anymore, and kids have no idea what that "V" over the television means.

Re:Let's see now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983949)

ive seen this as a rectangle over a little stand. But as for the others, bookmarks, folders, clipboards... everyone still sees those. We're not exactly living in star trek yet.

Re:Let's see now... (1)

HEMI426 (715714) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983971)

I actually built my own antenna to replace a set of rabbit ears, although the rabbit ears and the antenna that replaced them resides in the attic. Maybe I'm just too old and have too much to do to pay for any TV.

Re:Let's see now... (3, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984053)

If it was just the rectangle it could mean tablet, screen, box, window.

What it comes down to is that computers are becoming multipurpose devices with so many things being done in software, which means that if you implemented realistic symbols everything would look like everything else. That's is precisely what icons are not supposed to do.

Summary misleading... (2)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983929)

TFS is misleading... the things you complain about are only complained about in aspects.


Magnifying Glasses vs. Binoculars... he suggests that these icons should have been switched
Televisions... he complains about the "rabbit ears" aspect of many iconic renditions

The other two are just assuming that no one touches the tools anymore because they're not widely wielded anymore.

Re:Let's see now... (2)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984013)

Televisions are the same as microphones - they're used everywhere, but they look nothing like the bulky box with the rabbit-ear antenna on top that adorns icons. And changing them to look like modern televisions wouldn't work, cause modern televisions aren't really iconic - most consumer electronic devices seem to be converging on a featureless black box (physical description, not poorly-understood process metaphor).

Magnifying Glasses and Binoculars - I can't remember the last time I've used either of those. Maybe it is a disinterest with the great outdoors - or just a drop in bird-watching as a relatively common pastime. I know plenty of people who go camping, trekking, geo-caching (if you count that) - and none of them regularly use binoculars. I've very rarely even seen magnifying glasses in the stereotypical design - although my grandparents used a square-framed magnifying glass for reading until we got them a kindle.

Wrenches and gears - I use a wrench to change my car tires. That's about it. And there just aren't that many everyday mechanical objects anymore that people have common exposure to those elements. Almost everything that used to be mechanical is now electronic.

Re:Let's see now... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984023)

Microphones...still used everywhere, they've just changed their shape.

We're talking about icons ... isn't the shape the important bit?

Re:Let's see now... (2)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984025)

Everything you mentioned is debatable though as to whether or not it could be recognized for its function.

A sextant would hardly be recognized today as being related to navigation. It's not like you could use that as an icon for Google navigation on a smartphone.

Well except the wrenches and gears. Anyone technically inclined is going to to assume it either means settings, configurations, or basically anything that has to do with the low level function or repair of a program. Technology is going to have to change at a real fundamental level before you no longer need a wrench. We still use bricks and nails today and those are pretty damn old. Objects like wrenches, hammers, and ladders are going to be pretty self-explanatory for some time.

What I find interesting is you missed the ones that are hardly debatable IMO:

1) Radio button... well I am kind of guessing this a radio button on a form? Cuz I have never seen a radio icon in a mainstream program... ever. If it is the form one, it makes no sense at all.

2) Calendar button. Uhhhhhh.... how else are you going to visually represent days and weeks grouped into months? Until we switch over to Stardate blah blah blah I don't see that representation changing much at all or losing its relevancy.

3) Manila folder. People still print out hard copies all the time and need to physically group these objects together. A folder makes logical sense as an object that accomplishes that in the most efficient way possible. A book, even more so. Even with the advent of ebooks and readers I don't think physical books are going to go away for another 100 years or more, and will be recognizable for what they are for hundreds of years after that. We still recognize a spear as something to shove into somebody right? A book will represent information for quite a long time.

Re:Let's see now... (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984121)

Ya, but maybe the author is only 12 and has never left the room to see the world? I also see clipboards (ie, pass any voter signup booth on the street), bookmarks (paper books still outsell electronic fluff by a zillion to one), calendars (even electronic ones are laid out in the same way and any school that doesn't teach this needs fixing), manilla folders & envelopes (ubiquitous), and on occasion blue prints.

Now to be fair carbon copies are really old. However I doubt the concept is foreign to kids, it's just one of those phrases and terms you learn even if outdated (ie, think of all the English we have from Shakespeare). And I've never seen an icon of carbon copy until I went to that article...

Unless they're telling us that Idiocracy was a documentary.

Slashdot should talk (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983689)

Borgified Bill Gates representing Microsoft?

like, whateeeeever (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983693)

Read it on ycombinator about a year ago.

A Complete Non-Issue (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983697)

So what do we use? Should we have a picture of a piece of fiber for everything? Maybe a few ones and zeroes? This is a non-issue by a blogger without enough new ideas.

Alternatives Lacking (5, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983761)

Indeed, it's easy to complain, but difficult to offer real alternatives. Our world is increasingly non-physical such that there are few if any replacement images these days. So it seems you have 3 choices:

1. Use old-fashioned ideas
2. Use new-fashioned ones, which are either confusingly abstract or don't exist.
3. Don't use icons, period.

Most people recognize images faster than words (once learned), so 3 is out.

So let's see what you have with #2 before we toss #1. Show them or put up.

Re:Alternatives Lacking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984071)

iOS designers seem to love #2 mystery meat icons, which is frustrating at times.

(insert number two joke here)

Many of these items are still around (3, Insightful)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983703)

Wrenches, gears, magnifying glasses, screw drivers. These are not obsolete tools. Kids still ride bicycles. Bicycles still have gears and near screw drivers and wrenches for adjustment and repair. Magnifying glasses aren't the most useful of items but they are still cheap and as often seen now as 20 years ago.

Re:Many of these items are still around (2)

Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983879)

If you were into electronics (sort of literally), you'd consider magnifying glasses as pretty much "the most useful of items". Electronic components are unlikely to become bigger in the future and electronics are not exactly about to become obsolete, so the magnifying glass still will be with us for some time. Heck, you can't even read the type number on most microchips without some good light and a magnifying glass.

Re:Many of these items are still around (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984077)

The blogger is young punk. Magnifying glasses will be around for a long time. Anyone sufficiently advanced in age has a couple laying around the house and in their wallet (the flat ones) to read things.

Just wait till they get older :)

Re:Many of these items are still around (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984105)

When I complained to my eye doc that I'm needing new glasses more often, he told me "you're growing up!" Ha ha.
That fine print on PCBs and components is almost impossible to read. Head-mounted binocular magnifying glasses FTW.

I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (5, Informative)

isopropanol (1936936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983705)

But all the other ones are just plain wrong...
Only the name is wrong with radio buttons...
I, and most other people who have to take paperwork away from a desk, use clipboards daily,
Books are still quite normal around here, especially if you've been to school,
People still use address books and calenders, electronic devices supplement them,
Voicemail icon yes, it is dated,
Every office I've been in has had lots of beige folders,
Almost every desk phone has a handset that looks somewhat like that, even VoIP phones,
Physical magnifying glasses and binocuilars are still for looking for stuff,
Most people around here still get at least bills in envelopes,
If said 20-something has ever known anyone who took shop classes they should know what a wrench is (though what a wrench has to do with settings, I don't know),
Microphones like that are still used in recording studios and on bar stages,
Polaroids look like prints...,
Might not know why it's got feelers, but it still looks like a TV,
Last time I made a carbon copy, I was filling out a waybill... last Thursday (also a mimeograph machine does not do carbon copies, it makes mimeographs)

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (5, Funny)

MagusSlurpy (592575) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983783)

If said 20-something has ever known anyone who took shop classes they should know what a wrench is (though what a wrench has to do with settings, I don't know),

Easy. Wrenches are used to break things.

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (2)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983869)

Sad but true. Most middle and highschools have gutted their shop classes. When I was in highschool I was the last group to get machining, woodshop, basic fabrication and welding. And it's not like this was some ancient place, we had oxy-acetel, plasma, mig and tig. 3 types of CNC machines, and a computer assisted one. All gone the year after I graduated.

As for the GP's comment on tape? Well, we still use tape backups as part of our offsite backup solution. We also use HDD's and an online cloud based service(yeah don't remind me).

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984109)

Easy. Wrenches are used to break things.

Encryption for example.

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984119)

You. You reading this. Don't post it. You're thinking of it, but don't.

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983915)

Mostly agree except for the carbon copy part. From what I've seen carbon copies are basically extinct and nearly 100% replaced by Carbonless Copy Paper [] and most people just refer to them as "triplicate makers" or something. Note: the wrench for settings is probably a throwback to when cars were tuned by adjust timing belts and stuff instead of hooking a laptop up to the ECU.

Re:I'll concede on the floppy disk and tape... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984101)

Only the name is wrong with radio buttons...

What, you've never seen an erstwhile standard car radio? Five buttons, push one in at a time... simple, easy way to preset your favorite stations.

How to make $3.50 online (5, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983707)

Business plan for making $3.50 online:

1. Be an ignorant hipster microserf excitable attention whore
2. Write an ignorant article that makes you and your equally unenlightened followers giddy
3. Submit to slashdot and hope it's one of those new moronic editors who reviews it
4. Traffic
5. ??? (hint: cinnamon-chai lattés until your head implodes)

This site's getting so bad, it's making Gizmodo look good.

Re:How to make $3.50 online (1)

mattydont (849321) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983917)

Thank god I read your comment..... as a 24''something, I still remember "B drive" floppy's" yeah those huge fuckers.... But saying icons are dated is like saying the wheel has been around for ever.. lets get rid of it with something else round...... what are people going to start using? You sir are correct, i hate hipsters honestly and i do dryland dog sledding on a kickbike while wearing 5 toe shoes..... But you've probably never heard of it.......

Re:How to make $3.50 online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984069)

Duuuude! 24"???

Do you ever have second dates?

Re:How to make $3.50 online (2)

Sacred Wolf (2563891) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984057)

I actually read this article on Cracked months ago. Slashdot has been beaten to the punch by Cracked. Let that sink in for a minute.

Re:How to make $3.50 online (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984091)

Did you read the article? The guy makes a few (but only a few) good points since he doesn't have suggestions for fixing the issues. The /. summary isn't great.

I've never figured out why a clipboard means paste and I never made the radio button connection (and I had those types of buttons until I was 15). Any clipboard=paste ideas from the people over 26?

Leave the icons alone (5, Insightful)

Metricmouse (2532810) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983725)

The dollar sign is thought to be a slash through an eight representing 'pieces of eight', an older Spanish currency denomination, but everyone still knows what $ means. Icons that everyone is used to and that can be recognized as to their function should be left alone, for efficiency and a nice little piece of nostalgia.

Re:Leave the icons alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983899)

The dollar sign is supposed to be a U (as in "United") overlaid on an S (as in "States"). The U is tall and skinny. The S is of normal size and shape. And since the tall, skinny U doesn't fit within a proper line height, the bottom gets cut off.

Later, the glyph was simplified and one of the vertical bars was removed. Probably by a typewriter manufacturer. Early computer systems kept up the tradition of being sloppy about such things. More recent systems just keep it around for "compatibility".

Re:Leave the icons alone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983961)

that was a later adaptation of the $ to the US thing but thats all rumor
I mean just look up history of the $ geesh. GOOGLE much?

Re:Leave the icons alone (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984113)

everyone still knows what $ means.

Yes! $ is the sigil for scalars. It is also used for strings in BASIC.

Radio Buttons (5, Insightful)

Moridineas (213502) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983727)

I feel stupid saying this, but before reading this blurb (I refuse to click the link and give this guy hits), I never made the connection that radio buttons were from the old push-down / pop-up radio buttons.

Which just goes to show, iconography or UI elements don't have to have a connection to something commonly used or known to be understood. I've been able to use radio buttons fine for decades without realizing what the historical antecedent was.

Besides, who today hasn't seen a clipboard, bookmark, calendar, manila folder, magnifying glass, binocular, envelope, wrench or gears, microphone, photograph, or television? I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that in 50 years, all those things will still exist and still be commonly known. Most of those things are necessary as long as being a human still involves interacting with the physical world in some way. I don't think books will disappear, and I don't think tablets will end paper. Even if the devices themselves change (ie, binocular or magnifying glass into a unified electric optical device?), the analog remains.

Address Books and handset phones are likely to be things of the past, carbon copies pretty rare (though still very common today), and blue prints probably in the dustbin of history. If we got rid of "carbon copy" what would we rename the CC field to? "Other addresses that this message should go to, but not be the primary recipient of?" And BCC?

Re:Radio Buttons (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983913)

I feel stupid saying this, but before reading this blurb [...], I never made the connection that radio buttons were from the old push-down / pop-up radio buttons.

This is not stupid. This shows why the article is stupid.

Everybody knows what the radiation icon is, yet it does not look like that in reality. Icons are there to make it clear in one look what it means.

Replacing them will mean that people have two signs/icons to remember and then change them again in 20 years, so there are 3 sets to remember? That will add to the confusion.

Re:Radio Buttons (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983937)

Blueprints are still very common, they just aren't "blue" anymore and are are printed with plotters by CADD designers instead of hand-drawn with onion paper and T-squares (though those are still common in some places). Also, is carbon paper REALLY still used? Then closest I've seen in use in the last 5-10 years is the carbon-less copy paper you see triplicate-forms made with (blue/yellow/pink pages).

Re:Radio Buttons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983975)

I am 36 year old and have used the radio buttons but started UI programming very late when the radios already had more advanced controls. Now that you mentioned I realized what the real radio buttons are.

The radio button is so easy concept but also too simple to exploit: having all options visible and choosing just one from the group. There was a time when electronic devices had one button for one option, just because there was less amount of options available (now submenus and graphics etc. are used). Now the trend is not to have too many options visible at the same time.

Understanding this historical background makes it easier to understand the radio button concept.

Hurray Captain Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983729)

but the summary tells it like the icons will be ancient glyphs.

If you don't know what a screwdriver is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983731)

You should just top yourself, becuase you're a fucking loser.

What the hell is this blog spam? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983753)

Um, what?

This is one of the most horrible posts (not saying "article" because it's not- it's just a giant diatribe) I've ever seen on Slashdot. Why the hell is this shit on the front page?

I'm a graphics designer for a living (yes, I live off the income generated from my work). Reading this crap makes me think that this guy is either trolling or too goddam moronic to comprehend what he's trying to talk about. I haven't seen a floppy disk "save" icon in ages, radio buttons are NOT ICONS (they're widgets- it's like comparing a scroll bar to an icon- it's not, it's a goddam scrollbar), and I don't know what his beef is with everything else.

If he's so goddam brilliant, why isn't he offering suitable replacements instead of just saying "lol is teh sux0r 4 old people 4 sure1111111"?

Oh, wait, he thinks we should replace folders with giant abstract squares. That'll totally look better then a manilla folder for sure. Just look at the public outrage Adobe's icons cause every successive release- they've gone from those nice pre-CS icons (like the feather for Photoshop- what was up with that? Who cares, it looked good) to squares. With letters. In horrible colours with the complexity of something drawn in MS Paint.

I suppose in his ideal computing world, everything is that ugly. No thanks, I'll stick with my modern OS.


FAIL?!? (4, Insightful)

Y2K is bogus (7647) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983755)

When I read the article I felt like the world at large has failed. With the resurgence of the DIY genre, why do the young ones have to be ignorant of history? It seems like the intention is to forget all that came before, so nobody can have an original idea. The irony is that many great, original, ideas are a rehash of some previous idea because it was the best way to do something.

As someone who grew up using floppies, building computers, learning to program, and finally leaving that arena to explore a career in one of the oldest professions, metalworking, I have a particular spot for history and nostalgia.

Just because every 14 year old kid has an ARM A5 processor strapped to them doesn't mean the lessons that were learned in the 80's, innovating computers and electronics, aren't just as applicable today.

I feel it takes an appreciation for the classical trades and the way things *were* done, to truly appreciate what we have -- and apply the hard won principles of yesteryear to tomorrow.

Sure, those icons stand for concepts that we rarely use today, but many of them were "obsolete" when they were invented. Further, what would we replace them with, what are the analogues today that people will unmistakebly associate those actions with? What, two fingers making a V? How about a curly swipey gesture?

The world is full of things past and present, let's not throw them away because the "future" beckons "futuristic" notions.

Re:FAIL?!? (1)

cowtamer (311087) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983963)

Mod parent up -- I could not have said it better.

And, while you're at it -- get off our collective lawn!

Meh (5, Insightful)

wiegeabo (2575169) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983757)

This article might have been interesting if it had actually suggested replacement icons.

But just pointing out that they're old?

It doesn't matter that their old, everyone that uses them knows what the icons mean because they've 'always' meant that. And those that don't just use menus.

It doesn't actually matter! (5, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983773)

It doesn't actually matter if a kid has never seen a reel-to-reel tape player. The thing about symbols is, eventually they can stop being metaphors and start to have meaning in *themselves*.

Take for example the ampersand, &. It's a stylized, abbreviated form of the Latin word "et", meaning "and". You probably didn't know that, but you don't need to know Latin to understand that & means "and". The Latin letter "B" comes from the Phoenecian letter "bet" [] which also means "house", possibly because the letter once looked a bit like one. At this point the symbol is so far removed from its origin that we're not sure, but nobody cares. The Japanese katakana and hiragana writing systems work in a similar way: they're simplified versions of characters derived from Chinese symbols, and originally represented a word that starts with a certain sound. But now they just stand for the sound itself.

The same thing is happening with icons. 200 years from now, nobody will know what magnetic tape was, but so long as my new phone uses the same symbol for "voicemail" that my last one did, I'll be able to use it just fine.

Re:It doesn't actually matter! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984073)

The same thing is happening with icons. 200 years from now, nobody will know what magnetic tape was, but so long as my new phone uses the same symbol for "voicemail" that my last one did, I'll be able to use it just fine.

I don't care how great the iPhone 204 will be, I still don't think a dead man can use it.

Radio buttons (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983777)

What happens when you hit 2 at the same time in 2012? one action, the first you hit, so radio buttons still apply, you choose one, just like on your radio

Clipboards? anyone who doesnt sit at a desk all fucking day making up tripe articles has a use for a clipboard

Bookmarks? why is this on the list, do you have a better way to mark a book?

Spiral bound is strange? shit man someone better tell wallmart, they have an entire isle of them, and its often difficult to find college rule cause they sell out

Manila Folders? really dude? theres arguments over who gets the last couple folders in any workplace that actually has to keep up with paperwork, though it may be strange to you since your just writing on some yippy blog, and have nothing like sales or accounting

Envelopes, yea go drop a hundred bucks in cash in the night deposit or rent box with the slip attached via paperclip, see how far that gets you, again still relevant

Screwdrivers are something a 20 something has never seen? for fucks sake your really stretching, most put together cheap furniture that 20 somethings would buy for their party pad comes with one

Micophones, yea you are correct, that should be replaced with a "-", much clearer and mimics modern life to boot

Photography ... I dont know where your stretching to see this, windows shows me the picture in a box, paint has a artist pallet and brush, must be some mac crap or hippy linux nonsense

"Does your TV have "rabbit ears?"" why yes it does asswipe, its called DTV, it shows me the news and weather for free

"I'll "cc" you on that email. Last time I made a carbon copy I was using a mimeograph to do it". No you didnt mimeographs used a wet chemical process, and last time I bought a car, eh 2006 everything printed was on carbon paper, my time sheets are on carbon paper, and many workorders / receipts are on carbon paper

OLD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983789)

For once, this comment is appropriate.

What's new? (4, Insightful)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983793)

Symbols are passed on and re-purposed all the time.

Just because the Medici family isn't all that these days doesn't mean the 3 balls aren't still the symbol for pawn broker.

Or what about that cross for Christianity? These modern day kids haven't seen any crucifixions lately. How will they relate? Might want to throw out Lady Justice and her scales along with the Caduceus while we are at it.

The bad ones will die off (voice mail is particularly unintuitive), the others live on just because they are distinctive. Abstract Square, not so much.

Re:What's new? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984041)

Abstract Square, not so much.

Actually, abstract squares have been a pretty persistent representation for "stop", along with the abstract triangle for "play", and the abstract parallel lines for "pause" (which, these days, is often synonymous with stop anyway). This just goes to support your argument though - these abstractions do not graphically represent anything; their meaning is solely derived from their common, consistent use.

Re:What's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984063)

I am old fart myself (36 year old) who has used 8 inch, 5.25 inch and 3.5 inch floppies. I know many people who have used 3.5 version only. But I know none who have used 8 inch versions. For many people the "reality" is about the stuff they can relate to.

For me, these formats still remain in my active memory when I browse some computer museum web site. The new generation has never seen a floppy disk. Icon of a floppy doesn't symbolize a real floppy. Christianity is based on the crucifixion but "personal computing" is not. The concept of personal computing is constantly changing (and it's not a church).

Adding an icon for floppy never makes the new generation understand what the symbol is. But it helps make the older generation get nostalgic.

Re:What's new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984085)

Or what about that cross for Christianity? These modern day kids haven't seen any crucifixions lately. How will they relate? Might want to throw out Lady Justice and her scales along with the Caduceus while we are at it.

Interesting you should mention Caduceus [] .

the staff carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves.


The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.

The symbol of liars, thieves, gamblers and merchants but not so much for medicine. An ironically appropriate mistake really.

Agism? (4, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983795)

Where's the "And git off my lawn!" icon when you need it.

Re:Agism? (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983807)

Reel mower?

Started off strong, but... (4, Interesting)

XiaoMing (1574363) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983799)

What the shit kind of haphazard article was this?
I can see how the fast pace of technological evolution can make other things seem glacial, but some of those things were a fucking stretch beyond measure.

Does he think we already live in a paperless society?
Because clipboards, manila folders, envelopes, and calendars all still exist and are commonplace.

And taking issue with binoculars and magnifying glasses? I guess as a technologically advanced people, we've replaced basic optics with what, psychic powers to conveniently amplify the size of things for our comprehension?
He goes on to make a statement about how they are confusing and whatnot (no they aren't, Sherlock Holmes used a magnifying glass to search for clues and shit), but how does that even deal with his preface of the article, which is about anachronism?

And I can see how the phone's silhouette is one that isn't QUITE the most modern thing... but honestly what would you update it with? A little metal rectangle to represent the candy-bar phones we have now? Honestly the next best thing is probably the Motorola-Brick, which is iconic as a cell-phone, but existed concurrently with those phone silhouettes anyway.

Other no-duh's include Studio mics (vs. what else would you use? A pinhole to represent the integrated mic in a webcam?), and who the fuck doesn't recognize a gear or a screwdriver as the innards of something?

And finally, regarding

I suspect my voicemail is no longer stored on spooled magnetic tape

given [] that article, I'm not so sure this guy even understands the world beyond just what he himself specifically sees and touches.

Basically, he tried to justify a full blown article based on his observation of: Floppies, and Radio Buttons.

Not that sure about the radio buttons, either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39984111)

Radio buttons don't resemble physical radio buttons that much. I'm 22 years old college student and part-time software developer. Before this article I indeed hadn't known why they're called radio buttons in the first place (I assumed that only one being enabled at a time was a reference to radio playing one channel at a time... or something. I have distant memory of having pondered that briefly in my teens but I didn't care enough to find out)... but I've never found them confusing because of that. You have a set of options and when you choose one, all the others are deactivated... you don't need to think about physical buttons on a radio to understand the concept. I guess you could say "We could just change the term" but I honestly don't see why... or what we would change it to.

Most of that article was rubbish (1)

caywen (942955) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983811)

What the article almost implies is that it's silly and outdated to represent today's abstract computing concepts with icons of physical items. What then, to represent them with? I agree that some of the items need to evolve to use more modern objects (e.g. the floppy disk). But when a visual representation is needed, almost by definition the visual needs to represent something either physical, or a widely accepted glyph (e.g. a question mark, or a star).

What would be a better icon for saving a file? How about a diagram of a function being called that opens an I/O api that causes the file system to start writing bits at a particular sector and track using a magnetic head? Oh wait, with SSD's that's already outdated. Ok, how about a pictogram of an SSD drive? Oh wait, it looks like a nondescript box with chips inside.

Perhaps Microsoft is actually onto the ultimate solution to all this: maybe icons themselves need to go. Maybe the UI should just say "Save".

Makes perfect sense to me (3)

blandcramration (2636571) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983821)

The person that wrote this acts as if no one under 30 has ever seen any of these objects; to say so is completely ludicrous. I'm 28 and I have used floppy discs since I was 7, I've spoken on a telephone (over a cellphone) for most of my life, I've driven an older car with radio buttons, and I read books and like to keep my place. To assume anyone under 30 doesn't use tools, remember when polaroid went out of business, or owned a calendar is completely ignorant. Does everyone over 30 automatically have specific knowledge of these things? Does this make everyone under 30 completely ignorant to anything produced prior to the 1990s? Fuck off.

Drivel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983827)

This is the most absurd news post I've read on Slashdot in a while. In fact, it's bad enough that I'm bothering to leave my first comment in nearly a decade.

The multitude of comments asserting that these metaphors are still valid are by-and-large correct. Of course, people have used floppy disks in ages, but who doesn't implicitly know what that icon means?

If an icon conveys intention, purpose, and shared understanding; it is effective.

What drivel.

Skeuomorphism (4, Informative)

Sarusa (104047) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983837)

The term is 'skeumorph' - it's like a wheel with decorative spokes. The wheel no longer needs them for strength, but they're there because a wheel 'needs' spokes.

The other obvious one is camera apps making a shutter sound. []

Nothing new (3, Insightful)

pthisis (27352) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983841)

This is nothing new. We still talk about pencil lead even though it's been graphite since Roman times, bands cutting new tracks though wax recording is long past, calculus though we don't count with stones, and dialing phones though the rotary phone is nearly extinct. "Pump the brakes" has enjoyed a renaissance of popularity as a slang phrase despite antilock brakes being universal, and people still go balls to the wall or run out of steam.

It's more important that these icons and idioms are standard and well-understood than that people remember their origins.

Icons are NOUNS, Menus are VERBS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39983851)

Most icons don't make sense, that's because they're NOUNS when they represent actions that are VERBS.

Let me give you a simple example, 'paste' is the act of pasting stuff into a document, yet its presented as a clipboard icon. Save, he covered the floppy disk, but even if it was a hard disk, the action is *saving* from memory to disk, yet the button shows the disk, not the act. It could equally apply to 'load' from disk since there's no arrow indicating the direction usually these days.

It gets worse when complex menu items are replaced by single icons, the menu might say "Do [this] to [that] using [tool-mode]" and that has to be condensed down to a single picture in a rectangle with no flow. Language flows left to right in English, things at the right occur later than things at the left, whereas in icons, everything is in a square and has no time flow.

This is why the Microsoft ribbon is so bad, all those icons trying to represent complex underlying actions and all of them vague and confusing.

So sure the out of date icons are bad, but then they were never good in the first place.

Double-reverse-getoffmylawn-irony (2)

fongaboo (813253) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983853)

In a case of double-reverse-getoffmylawn-irony, the author is apparently too old to understand that Instagram icon is capitalizing on the very real nostalgia by hipster twenty-somethings for Polaroid cameras. This kind of retro-enthusiasm is very selective though. Recently I had a friend chastise another friend on why he would have an interest in vintage computers. Later that day, when visiting said friend's abode, I discovered an Atari 2600 configured with a SynthCart that allowed him to manipulate it as a retro-new-wave electronic instrument.

Under the hood (1)

fongaboo (813253) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983861)

BTW... Thanks to Obama's bailout of the auto industry, wrenches and gears are still made use of 'under the hood' in more than a figurative sense... and it's still quite lucrative to do so.

Icons are symbols (4, Insightful)

Hymer (856453) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983875)

Icons work because we have learned what the symbol means not because the symbol makes sense. Red Cross and the biohazard sign are examples of this.
If you change the symbol you have to learn everybody the meaning of the new symbol instead of just learning children the meaning of the old one.
Furthermore you don't have any guarantee that the shiny new symbol will be meaningful in a couple of years.

This is going to sound kind of mean (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983919)

This is going to sound kind of mean, but tell them to adapt. You have perhaps a dozen icons to memorize that represent 90% of the operations you will ever need to perform on a computer; and there really aren't any viable replacements. Who uses Read / Write media today? What would be considered universal? A thumb drive? The 'cloud'? Who here owns a rewritable DVD, or Blu-Ray?

This is a problem that simply doesn't exist.

Symbols can out-last Objects (1)

Copley (726927) | more than 2 years ago | (#39983935)

The meaning of a symbol can extend way beyond the lifetime of the object it is based on.

In the UK the sign for a speed camera shows a Hasselblad-type bellows camera [] , not because these cameras are in common use, but because the symbol is highly-recognisable when travelling along a road at speed - much more so that a generic, rectangular digital camera symbol would be.

(Plus, with OSs like iOS, the concept of manually 'saving' a document is almost redundant - the average Joe is moving to systems where documents are simply created and then auto-magically sync'd to some central cloudy place)

Legacy identifications are nothing new (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984003)

We maintain many symbols that don't make sense in a modern context anymore.

They're symbols. We use them because they mean something. They are as useful as they are easily understood. If due to these modern changes people no longer understand what the symbols mean, THEN they'll be bad. But so long as people know what they mean they're fine.

The objective is communication. That's the point of symbols. Until they're not understood they should remain unchanged. By all means, suggest alternatives and try to use them. But don't act like everyone else is doing the world a disservice by not following along.

not everyone (1)

pbjones (315127) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984047)

Some companies are always slow to change, and others keep their icon up-to-date.

Shrouded in mystery? (1)

BlueLightning (442320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984051)

Sounds more like shrouded in ignorance to me...

Wrenches? (1)

os2fan (254461) | more than 2 years ago | (#39984075)

Hey, all i saw was a spanner and screw-driver.

Still, those of us who have lives in the real world do fine-tune things with a spanner etc, such as to give some more gain to the victa or level the fridge. So the notion of a spanner and screw-driver for configure (ie adjust), has still some sense. Also, there's the delightful phrase 'spanner in the works'. This is just the dandy place to do it (i recall one girl changing all of the window furniture to blue, and then wondered why she couldn't see anything!).

One should remember that the hard disk icon is sometimes shown as a stack of platters, and sometines as a grey box, but in one instance, the hard drive is not the volume, and secondly, not many people would pick out the fixed disks in a beige box. It's also interesting to see what people would think of floppy-disk icons when floppies aren't allowed at work.

Still, there are steam engines used to show level crossings, because of all things railway, the steam engine is perfectly recognisable.

As to the rabbit ears on the tele, that's about the most distinct thing about it, and even TiVo uses it in their logo.

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