The word “save” or “clipboard” may roll off the tongue as second nature, but why is it that modern computer UI still uses icons and visual cues with roots in things that either no longer exist or may as well not exist? Scott Hanselman’s Computer Zen takes a good look at this specific topic and shows us several examples of how we’re clinging to bygone eras. For instance, has anyone asked themselves lately why there’s a floppy disk icon used to represent “save” in many of the most popular computer apps? For most of us, it’s been over a decade since we slipped one of those plastic-sheathed discs into a slot, so how is it that it’s our go-to image for saving data? How about radio buttons, where you’ve got a bunch of mutually-exclusive choices represented by the way old car radios used to be programmed? Bookmarks, clipboards, voicemail or even envelopes:[quote]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’?”[/quote]
Interesting how these symbols have, for a modern generation, become almost completely detached from their original meaning and, instead, are now used to depict a meta-definition (I’ve even seen the floppy disk icon used in iOS apps). Wouldn’t it be interesting if Apple, who pride themselves on being at the forefront of modern tech thought, decided to cast off the tired icons of yesteryear and introduce some new imagery to go with their new machines?