Something Arbitrary? — How did power, bluetooth, and wifi become synonymous with these symbols? Maybe the save icon could grab some random goodness of it’s own?
Is this guy just dense? It obviously already has. There are loads of arbitrary icons we only recognize because we’ve learned what they mean, and the 3.5" floppy disk is one of them.
For what it’s worth, there’s actually a pretty good justification for the power symbol.
Also, the Wi-Fi symbol seems, to me, to obviously indicate something emanating from a point.
The Bluetooth logo is definitely more arbitrary, though, but not completely—it is a rune for the initials of Harald Bluetooth who united the Danish kingdom in the 10th century.
Less clear than wifi is the fact that this symbol means wifi while this symbol means cellular, and there’s no real confusion between the two. How did that convention get established?
Here’s my guess: the 3 (or n, really) bar symbol is basically the symbol used in the 2G mobile phones, sometimes in conjunction with this weird antenna symbol and came before WiFi.
It also makes perfect sense that WiFi is emanating from a point, since most people have set it up with a single AP and phone networks work from the perspective ot the user more like a network.
Thanks for the link! I haven’t noticed the difference between standby and power on-off symbols before.
Bluetooth is also not entirely arbitrary, because it’s the H/B runes merged together (HB for Harald Bluetooth, the king who unified the Danish tribes, who Bluetooth is named after).
I just asked my kids. The 10 y/o knew it meant “save”, but didn’t know or care what it was. The 7 y/o also knew it meant “save” and he said he always thought it was a vending machine.
Personally, I don’t understand why we need a new save icon. The floppy drive has been tested with teenagers, and even they knew it meant save even though they didn’t know what it was.
Also none of the suggestions were any good. The “check” from the comments is the closest and still doesn’t truly imply “save.”
What problem are we trying to solve again?
We’re trying to find a physical representation of an abstract idea to avoid using written language.
The origin of the symbol is irrelevant to its current day meaning. But it’s also fun I imagine, to discover the origin at some point later in life: “Ohh, so that’s where this comes from!” Kind of like an easter egg.
I don’t understand why some people have such an aversion with “old” things. Just because the floppy disk itself is old and obsolete is a reason to keep the icon. Not throw it away because.. uhm.. why again?
The question is: do we really need to change the icon if everyone knows what the icon means? I don’t think so. It’d require everyone to learn a new symbol and go through a transition period where both symbols would be used. The benefit? Someone would satisfy his academic sense of purity.
The way Tango and most other icon sets in the X world do it is an arrow pointing to a hard drive. Historically, I think Lotus SmartSuite just did arrows pointing out of a folder for open and save.
Anything involving a physical hard drive is awful. When would a typical user have ever seen a hard drive? They might have seen an external hard drive, but probably not an internal 3.5" magnetic disk. I will also point out that this has the same problem as a floppy in that 15 years from now it’s entirely possible that all hard drives will have been replaced by SSDs.
Since the concepts of “download” and “save” are becoming a bit blurred in the era of the cloud, I’ve seen more software just use a down-arrow not pointing to anything for download/save, in the sense of save to your local disk. For the other kind of “save”, where you want to checkpoint your work in progress but not locally, e.g. in Google Docs or Office365, the trend seems to be to just skip the explicit icon/action entirely and use pervasive autosave.
I guess the deeper question here is: is it important to know what an icon means even though you may not know it’s history? To which I would answer, no.
I like the save icon because it reminds us where we’ve come from. One day, someone will wonder what that icon is and will read up on floppy disks, knowing how small space once was. They might learn to appreciate the overwhelming amount of space they have as a result.
The floppy disk icon is appropriate because the whole concept of “Save” needs to go …
If you don’t mind me to go meta: I’m upvoting this because I enjoyed reading the post (even though I did not agree with it at all), and I agree that it belongs on Lobsters. It also provoked comments that were fun to read which is good.
That being said; if you ask me, I don’t think the “save” icon should be something else. I’d rather keep the floppy, consider it like a tribute to a broadly used “stepping stone” towards the technology we use today.
If people want to know the origins of the save icon, well, especially those people will know how to use a search engine. Still, it’s good to be able to discuss these kinds of things here.
No problem, I posted it even though I disagreed with it since I wanted to see the discussion it would generate. ;)
This is true. I didn’t think of it until just now, but we still use the term “hang up” even though most people haven’t physically hung up a phone in years. Haven’t heard anyone complaining about that.
Exactly. Many expressions like ‘hang up’, i.e. expressions commonly used today, originate from elsewhere. Just take a look at these  to see the nautical ones that stuck with us right to the present. Overwhelming.