Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Change the way you think

Some symbols just won't die. Open up your version of Microsoft Word and look at the button used to save your document: it's a floppy disk. This image used to make sense, because floppy disks were the dominant mode of computer storage for a twenty year stretch. But that floppy reign ended more than a decade ago. A significant percentage of today's computer users have probably never even seen a floppy disk. Yet there it is, the international symbol for saving a document.*

*Granted, it's not easy to come up with a replacement symbol. The floppy disk example demonstrates the folly of equating the save symbol with the physical object used to save information; things just move too quickly. Maybe a cloud, representing cloud computing, could work. But even this less-literal metaphor equates the method with the outcome. 

In a similar vein, New York's Vulture blog recently had some fun compiling a list of movie clich├ęs that technology just can't kill, including my personal favorite, automatic windows:
Any time a character needs someone to roll down a window, they still make the crankety-crank motion, assumably because mime-pressing an imaginary automatic-window button is just way too hard to decipher.

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