Who invented the Pause icon?
April 23, 2006 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Any idea which device first used two vertical bars to represent "pause"?

I'm researching the history of icons and am trying to track down the first pause icon. I've found plenty of play, rewind, fast forward icons on reel-to-reels and similar devices, but the pause icon is eluding me. My hunch is it was a cassette player, but nothing confirmed yet. Thanks.
posted by billder to Technology (5 answers total)
You should probably consult this previous thread about tape transport symbols.
posted by jellicle at 8:46 AM on April 23, 2006

Could it have something to do with the symbol for a capacitor (which is basically the same)? A capacitor is a bit like a pause button, they both cause something to stop for a while.
posted by louigi at 9:42 AM on April 23, 2006

it's possible that this may have started with talking book recorders for the blind ... these have an "I" on the pause button ... the first ones were made in the early 70s ... photos of previous cassette machines have pause buttons, but not the II symbol on them
posted by pyramid termite at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2006

I don't know where the first pause icon appeared—but as for the symbol's origins, could it stem from bar lines in musical notation? A single bar line (vertical line spanning all the horizontal lines on the staff) denotes the end of a measure, and a double bar line (where both lines are the same weight) indicates the end of a section in the music. (See here.)

Also, multiple-measure rests in music are indicated by a long thick line with a small vertical line at each end. (See here.)
posted by limeonaire at 12:25 PM on April 23, 2006

Actually this reminds me more of the caesura symbol in music, often called "train tracks." It looks like this: || but often slanted to the right. It's also used to mark pauses in verse. I seem to remember it serves some purpose in legal documents as well? Anyway, I'm willing to bet it's an ancestor of the pause button symbol. But where the caesura symbol itself comes from, I'm not sure.
posted by speicus at 3:41 AM on April 24, 2006

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