Worth Saving?

Block that Metaphor!

In a previous post I wrote about the long, second life of outmoded technologies and utilitarian objects as digital icons on our smartphones and computer screens:

What’s most intriguing about these icons is that they may outlive the object they refer to. Future generations will know what an image of an envelope, postage stamp, or telephone means even when those objects have long since disappeared from daily life. Technologies past are preserved in all sorts of ways. In today’s media, icons are one of the most ubiquitous.

What happens when that past technology doesn’t seem all that iconic? When the visual image itself — and its associations — don’t kindle either fond feelings (in those who can remember using the antiquated form) or the instant, intuitive recognition interface designers count on? Case in point is the much maligned, rarely mourned floppy disk as icon for “save.”
Designers at Tobias & Tobias Interactive in England discuss this problematic skeuomorph in a recent blog post. As does the blog “Things That Need to Die” (which, by virtue of its name alone, gets my nomination for Obsolescing’s evil twin): “… it’s only a matter of time before people start asking ‘What’s with the square thing?'”

Both sites are seeking nominations for a better icon to replace the poor floppy disk. If you have any suggestions, post them here — or there. One of the few suggestions (on the British site!) is an image of home plate (Safe, get it?), which, to my mind, qualifies as the visual equivalent of “Block that Metaphor.”
 What do you think? Is the Floppy Disk worth saving as an icon for saving? Or should it be tossed in the
?
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5 responses to “Worth Saving?

  1. True, it has no resonance for anyone who wasn’t around when they were. But I think it’s kinda cute. Then again I’m biased, still keeping some from an old project (about archives coincidentally)

  2. Pingback: Day 34 – Floppy Discs « Obsolescence Project

  3. I came across these examples this morning and thought you would enjoy them. Even more enjoyable are the indignant commenters: “I just used a rotary phone yesterday!”
    http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheFloppyDiskMeansSaveAnd14OtherOldPeopleIconsThatDontMakeSenseAnymore.aspx

    • Thanks for finding this. I don’t agree that these icons are meaningless to people who’ve never used them. They become like dead metaphors. People know what they mean even after the original allusion is long lost. Who think’s about horses when you’re talking about horsepower? Who even knows what a stereotype or a cliché was, apart from its metaphorical meaning (another post there!).

  4. Yes, another post about how words inherit the trace of meaning of the original object please!

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