Is there a word for this technological phenomena?
February 7, 2012 6:45 PM   Subscribe

Is there a dictionary word that defines when new technology mimics old technology unnecessarily? An example would be a cellphone ringtone that mimics an old fashioned phone with a bell on it. The culture is used to the bell sound although it is unnecessary in a digital culture. Also, what are other examples?
posted by sublimetym to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Skeuomorph?
posted by jweed at 6:53 PM on February 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Check out this thread for some examples.
posted by St. Sorryass at 7:10 PM on February 7, 2012

The QWERTY Keyboard, which was developed to slow down typists to avoid jams, something that wouldn't be an issue on modern keyboards today.

This question also reminded me of the DVD Rewinder.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:11 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

jweed has it. It is an annoying word for an often annoying phenomenon.
posted by alms at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2012

A lot of audio editing programs allow you to load plugins, called VST plugins. The plugins are usually effects, like reverb, distortion, compression, and so on. They're the digital equivalent of guitar pedals.

An awful lot of these plugins have UIs that are (pointlessly) made to look like analog audio hardware controls--that is, what you get to work with is an image of a metal plate with a bunch of knobs and dials on it. If you Google 'VST ui' you'll see a whole bunch of these.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:14 PM on February 7, 2012

Apple's UI is notorious for this kind of stuff. The silly "ripped paper" metaphor on iCal is a particularly noxious offender.
posted by downing street memo at 7:24 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

What jweed said. I learned it as skiamorph.

The shutter sound on digital cameras is one.
posted by looli at 9:11 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another example: the save button on many programs is still the icon for a 3.5 diskette.

(I've had to explain to my small son why that diskette image was chosen. I still don't think he understands.)
posted by at the crossroads at 9:33 PM on February 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Skeuomorphism just denotes aping of physical forms in new media/technology. The critical term is anachronism. Things like the Save icon still being a 3.5 diskette even though many modern computer users have never even seen one would be anachronistic skeuomorphism.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:09 PM on February 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

'Return' key on the keyboard (inspired by 'carriage return') as oppose to 'Next Line'
posted by london302 at 7:15 AM on February 8, 2012

Fashion is full of this - the modern world values simplicity, and closures are zippers or velcro or just elasticized, but there's traditional visual appeal in buttons and toggles and laces. Jackets with zippers-to-nowhere, slacks with false pockets. To emulate old-fashioned "fancy" clothing, you often see long lines of non-functional buttons on a flap that conceals a zipper, particularly common on wedding dresses and ladies' boots.
posted by aimedwander at 7:39 AM on February 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

backwards guitar: "The QWERTY Keyboard, which was developed to slow down typists to avoid jams"

As the article you link to points out, it was designed to prevent jams, but not to slow typists down. It's a widely-perpetuated but inaccurate story. I would also argue that keeping QWERTY isn't mere skeuomorphism: changing away from it would impose a significant burden on everybody who had already learned to type.

One could probably come up with a whole taxonomy of skeuomorphs: those that mimic old forms because nobody figured out a good metaphor for new forms (like those floppy-disk icons for Save buttons), those that mimic old forms purely out of sentimentalism (like the ripped paper in iCal), etc (here's another good rant). And so on.
posted by adamrice at 8:26 AM on February 8, 2012

eReaders having page turns. It drives me nuts. I want a continuously scrollable text.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2012

Well, for eInk readers that's actually dictated by the technology, each 'page turn' is the screen refreshing, but I take your point on LCD readers. Although personally, I like my reading in page-like chunks because it's a measure of progression and fits with the way I consume ideas.
posted by Happy Dave at 3:14 PM on February 8, 2012

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