>> ?
October 31, 2005 10:39 AM   Subscribe

The little triangles and squares used to identify control buttons on media players, both analog and digital; What are they called and on what product did they first appear? Would you call them tape-control glyphs? That's what I'd call 'em. But my google-fu is fruitless. You know - two right facing triangles means fast forward >>, a broken box means pause, etc.
posted by bendybendy to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
could they have been defined by philips as part of the compact cassette user interface guidelines (if such a thing existed; i just tried googling for that, to no luck)?
posted by andrew cooke at 10:49 AM on October 31, 2005

I think you're looking for ISO 7000, though I've never read it. I know ISO 7000 defines things like the "power symbol" (the 1 superimposed over a 0), and other similar things. No doubt fast-forward, pause and all those types of things are in there too.

Here's an interesting PDF I just came across on the subject of sleep button markings.

Anyone have a copy of ISO 7000?

IMHO many web designers could learn something from the diligent efforts of engineers to make products that are easy to use for the great majority of the populace, setting up and maintaining consistent user interface expectations. (Flash designers, I'm talking to you!)
posted by jellicle at 10:56 AM on October 31, 2005

No idea when they first appeared, but they became an international standard in 1973 under the title " IEC417 Graphical symbols for use on equipment." This move was made by the International Electrotechnical Commission in Geneva. They have a rather comprehensive website including a forum, and I'm sure the answer is in there somewhere.
posted by fire&wings at 10:56 AM on October 31, 2005

Oddly enough this tape recorder(?) from 1965 had the fast forward and rewind double-triangles, but not the play, pause, and stop symbols.
posted by fvw at 1:16 PM on October 31, 2005

Anyone have a copy of ISO 7000?

I doubt you'll find on on the net for free. ISO standards are sold---ISO makes (all?) it's money from the sale of standards.
posted by bonehead at 1:30 PM on October 31, 2005

Like what fvw found, this (different) tape recorder from 1965 used << and >>.
posted by smackfu at 1:47 PM on October 31, 2005

This Document has the media symbols on page three. Looks to me like the common ones are an industry de facto standard.
posted by jduckles at 1:50 PM on October 31, 2005

Best answer: I don't know when those first appeared, but these days, the general term for those controls is "transport." Something like "transport glyphs/icons/symbols" should do the trick, nomenclature-wise.
posted by adamrice at 2:30 PM on October 31, 2005

Bonehead: Well, they also make a lot of money off of auditing for standards, but you're right about how hard it can be to find an ISO 7000 manual. One of the best places, at least around Michigan (and the auto plants) is copy shops where binding happens. There are often binding mistakes on the manuals, and so they're discarded by the overnight guys (when they run the large jobs). You can usually ask nicely and they'll give you one. When I worked at Kinkos we did at least one ISO auditor manual job per month— they were a MAJOR client.
posted by klangklangston at 2:57 PM on October 31, 2005

Good question! My guess is that the symbols could probably be traced back at least as far as reel to reel recorders and from there perhaps to older industrial machinery of a similar type (looms, printing presses, etc).

At least tradationally manufactuers cared a great deal about using standard icons for this sort of thing. I once had a colleague who was asked to sit on an international standards group for the naming of symbols on telephone keypads. At one stage they were trying to agree an exact form for the "#" symbol. They never did manage to do this but the process (due to the complexity involved) was drawn out over several meetings over years.
posted by rongorongo at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2005

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