Time to Let Go?

I was introduced to computing in the 5th grade. My first computer class was in the school's brand-new Apple IIe computer lab. On that first day we had no idea what to expect. Our teacher held up a 5¼" floppy disk and proceeded to demonstrate how not to treat it. He threw the disk across the room, he crumpled it in his fist, tossed it on the floor and jumped on it. He then attempted to rip the disk open with his bare hands. He let loose on the disk with a pair of scissors, dropped it into a metal waste-paper-basket and set it on fire. The folks at Verbatim would have been horrified; we thought it was funny. And from that moment on, the teacher had our attention.

I probably still have a bunch of floppys sitting in a box somewhere. I used floppy disks all through university, so I still may have some assignments I wrote using Zardax, an Apple IIc word processor. Alas, the floppy disk is a relic of a bygone era. File sizes have far surpassed the capabilities of the faithful floppy - a single digital photo today exceeds the miniscule storage limit of a floppy disk. And if you have floppy disks, what would you do with them? Modern motherboards no longer support floppy drives. Your best bet is eBay where you might be able to find a floppy drive that connects to your computer via USB. Look in the "antiquities" category.

The other day I was having lunch with my co-workers and I posed the following question: If you had to replace the classic floppy-disk Save icon with something more contemporary, what would you choose? The rules are that the new icon would have to be:
Intuitive - if an alien was to try to use the software, he/she/it would immediately recognize the save button.
Future-proof - in 20, 30, 50 years we would still recognize this as the Save command.

All of the following suggestions (some tongue-in-cheek) were knocked out of contention:
  • safe (knocked out of contention because it is associated with backup)
  • lifebuoy (knocked out of contention because it is associated with restoring data)
  • elephant (because elephants never forget)
  • hard-disk (knocked out of contention because today we save to HDDs, optical media, flash drives, networks, the cloud, etc.)
  • check-mark (knocked out of contention because it could mean any number of things)
After much discussion, we determined that there isn't a better icon. Like the ubiquitous telephone graphic for placing a voice or video call, the image of a 20th-century data storage medium is a universally recognized symbol, dated, perhaps, but culturally accepted.

It's true that an alien wouldn't intuitively know to press the floppy disk icon, but if in 50 years time we still need to save information via a GUI, even earthly humans who have never held a 1.44 MB floppy disk will know what the graphic means.

It seems that the floppy disk icon is here to stay. I don't think it's time to let go. Not just yet.

Follow on Twitter: @ykarp
Follow on Google+: +Yossi Karp
Subscribe to Y. Karp? Why Not! or follow on Facebook (see the side-bar).
Add this blog to your RSS feed reader.


  1. We are glad to see this informative article.
    Data deletion scenario is usually an Inconvenience for the consumer.
    As a way to resolve this concern, the gurus have launched several information restoration solutions.
    If a loss of data problem has taken place, individual have to know which application or software package to use so as to handle this scenario of computer data damage.
    recover deleted emails outlook 2007


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

[Private] Enterprise: Going Where No One Has Gone Before

Turning More into Less, More or Less

Episode 37: Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Modern Living