My daughter was playing Legacy today (one of the few games I’ve bought lately) and wanted to know how to save a game. I was across the room and I explained what to click on. She shot me a puzzled look when I told her to click on the save icon “…you know, the thing that looks like a floppy disk”. Plaintively she replied, “I don’t see that, and what’s a floppy disk?”.
We had just spent some time the night before looking through some of my old vinyl records. We looked through several LPs which seemed impressively large with beautiful images and some having full lyrics to all the songs across the inside spread. The girls recognized the shape of the LPs as being pretty much like CDs so the concept wasn’t too much of a stretch. The floppy is something else entirely.
I’ve always had a sweet spot in my heart for the floppy. Our old Atari ST used 3.5″ floppies and I still have them all, though I doubt many of them would be readable today anyway. The older 5-1/4″ floppies have mostly all made their final trip. The 3.5″ ‘floppy’ wasn’t. It was rigid, and looked amazingly like the little data cards from the original Star Trek (long before anythng like a floppy existed). By the early 90s, the “3 and a half inch floppy” was everywhere – it could only hold about 1.4MB of stuff, but every computer had a floppy drive to read them. If you had trouble booting a machine they were sometimes the only way since no machines then could boot from a CD (if they could even read a CD, the first 2x CD-Rom came out in ’92). Floppies were even used for backups. Kids would save all their homework projects to them (with the same disastrous results that working off a cheap USB flash disk has today). But the day of the floppy disk is now officially over. New computers don’t come with a floppy drive at all, and with the price of flash memory dropping every day, you can keep 4GB of data on an even tinier card that costs $30.
So, we need a new save icon.
The official save icon in a lot of programs is an image of what is now an obsolete device that my kids don’t even recognize. I think this is a standard of sorts that came from the early Microsoft Office suite, but Open Office 3.0 is still using it as well as shown here. Since some of my job involves desktop support I can tell you that a lot of people don’t recognize the icon for what it is anyway – many having learned to choose Save from the File menu instead. I don’t know if that’s because the icon doesn’t look enough like what it is supposed to represent, or the opposite.
I don’t think the floppy disk / save icon is going to go away immediately, but since most kids today have never even seen one of the disks it’s supposed to represent, it won’t be long before one of them decides to get rid of graphical references to it. But what should we replace it with, a flash disk or a hard drive? How long till those are obsolete too?