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Intriguing Origins of UI Symbols That You Should Know About

Origins of UI Symbols That You Should Know
We cannot imagine our gadgets and electrical appliances without them. We see them a million times a day, but little do we care about how they originated. We're talking about User Interface (UI) symbols. Each one of them has a unique tale to tell you about their rise. Do listen!
Payal Kanjwani
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
And so they say, keep it simple, silly!
The designing of a logo or symbol is done using minimal elements, just by extracting the essence of realism. Symbols are created for simplification and ease as we don't want users to get confused by getting into cluttered designs.
That little button on your monitors, smartphones, electrical appliances, etc., that you're sure will turn off the system you're working on, yes, the circle seated there with a line in its mouth. Duh! We're talking about the 'power' button. If you find a text fragmented with an 'a' in a swirly circle, you tend to believe it's an email address. These symbols have impacted us in a strange way. We are surrounded by such signs and symbols, they have become an everyday part of our lives, and we have hardly given them a second thought.

As they say, the best interface is no interface, the best UI symbols are those that don't even get noticed. But where did these obscure icons come from? Let's wear the Sherlock shades and get working.
Name: at symbol
◆ Call me The Snail, The Little Mouse or The Monkey's Tale, I've wriggled the path from being used for beverage measurements to accounting units to being a full-time separator in the Internet world.
◆ My most significant use as a symbol was proposed by Raymond Tomlinson, in 1971, when he used me as a separator to dissever computer network addresses from the user.
◆ Today, I hold a glorious place in the social-networking world―Twitter handles, Facebook, and LinkedIn mentions, Instagram usernames, and adding a cherry on top, MoMa has given me a place its design collection.
bluetooth symbol
Name: Bluetooth
◆ No, I've nothing to do with being blue or anywhere being close to tooth-like in appearance.
◆ Most of you might be aware of the Harald Blåtand version of developing me. But very few know that my logo is a bind rune, fluxing Harald's initials―the Younger Futhark runes (Hagaal) and Bjarkan.
◆ My designing was done for collaborating computing world to cell phones (or to automotive markets) on the grounds of the collaboration of Denmark to Norway (Harald sure was a craftsman in communication!).
command symbol
Name: Command
◆ Andy Hertzfeld along with his teammates, first created me to be a special key, that can translate menu commands onto the keyboard.
◆ Then, they redesigned me by choosing a floral symbol from an international symbol dictionary which held a significance in Sweden. And this (not-so) innovative idea sprung to Susan Kare.
◆ Today, I have managed to be the keystone in most Apple keyboards.
◆ I have a number of other names like―the Gorgon loop, the infinite loop, the splat, and moreover, I've left a mark in the Unicode standard as a 'place of interest sign'.
ethernet symbol
Name: Ethernet
◆ My designing was a part of the set of local area network connections. David Hill, an IBM techie, invented me along with my fellow mates.
◆ An array of blocks, representing terminals/computers were joined in a non-hierarchical fashion. Goodness, nobody is the controller!
◆ Thus, after many rough sketches, this became my official port symbol.
FireWire symbol
Name: FireWire
◆ A group at Apple created me back in 1995 when they were projecting on anew technology that would give high-speed connectivity.
◆ So they chose three prongs, mapping audio, video and data together. Creative people, I tell ya!
◆ Despite my color being changed from red to yellow, I'm happy that I'm faster that USB (hihi!).
play symbol
Name: Play
◆ Seeming to belong from an ancient musical world, I've made my way to computer keyboards and media players.
◆ I have some blur memories of being Originated as a tape transport symbol on reel-to-reel tape decks.
◆ Well, the direction of my arrow represents the direction the tape would move.
◆ Sometimes, I'm also accompanied with rewind and fast-forward buttons.
pause symbol
Name: Pause
◆ Some believe that my design is being inspired from an open connection on an electrical schema, while some say I'm a modified 'stop' symbol with a chunk being eliminated from its center.
◆ To tell you the truth, I have an identity in the musical world, where they call me a caesura, a complete pause in poetry line or otherwise!
power button
Name: Power
◆ Firstly, Thanks for the mention in the intro. Well, I think I'm the senior-most in this list, so I quite deserved it.
◆ Talking about my history, I'm taken back to those days of World War II when the engineers used binary system for coding power buttons and toggles. So the machine language interprets 1 as 'On' and 0 as 'off'.
◆ Later, since the On/Off switch progressed and got merged into a single power button, they threw 1 into 0, creating a broken circle with a line.
◆ The name 'Power' as in, on pressing the button/symbol, you're launching 1s and 0s to make your machine conscious.
SBBOD symbol
◆ I know, I give you a little panic, every time you see me! Techies know me as the 'Spinning Beach Ball Of Death', while 'the spinning pizza' name has probably come from a foodie!
◆ Well, I was evolved from the 'wait' cursor of wristwatch that Mac OS had in its former versions. The watch vanished from the design as it reminded users of the time being passed in waiting for the program to start/resume/respond.
◆ Some also say, that I was meant to represent the spinning magneto-optical disk from NeXTstep OS. As mysterious my design is, my Origin remains to be a big mystery as well.
sleep symbol
Name: Sleep
◆ People were perplexed with what the standby mode meant! So to unclutter things, the IEEE renamed the standby button as Sleep, and this is how I was born.
◆ Crescent moon being the standard symbol for the sleep state in Europe and the US, it was an easy pick for my standard design.
◆ You may also find my sibling, the Zzz button in the Japanese parts of the world.
USB symbol
Name: USB
◆ I was adapted from the trident of Neptune, Roman God of the sea.
◆ The spear (three pointed triangles) were altered to a circle, triangle and square to convey that different peripherals can be connected at a single destination.
◆ Phew! The floppy disk got bumped off 'cause I could store more than two documents at a time.