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View Full Version : Origin of play, stop, pause, etc. buttons?


Vox Imperatoris
11-19-2008, 01:09 AM
When were these first settled as distinct shapes and by whom?

The play button, as an arrow pointing forward, and the skip/fast forward buttons seem pretty obvious but less so for the others.

Valete,
Vox Imperatoris

Colophon
11-19-2008, 10:12 AM
Now that is a good question, and I await some answers with interest. Why does two vertical lines mean "pause"? Yet everyone knows that it does.

Edit:
I found this (http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/48052):
it comes from the japanese character "リ" which indicates a pause
That's the character "ri" but I can't find anything more about this...

Colophon
11-19-2008, 10:17 AM
A couple of Metafilter threads on this:
http://ask.metafilter.com/26398/
http://ask.metafilter.com/36858/Who-invented-the-Pause-icon

Which links to http://www.dolmetsch.com/musictheory5.htm
Sometimes the fermata may be followed by a pair of oblique lines, //, lying through the top line of the staff. This is called a fetura or caesura although some conductors may also call them tramlines, railroad tracks or a cut-off. The sign means that there is a silent pause in the onward flow of the musical line.

...

In poetry, a caesura is a pause somewhere in the middle of a verse often marked with two vertical lines ||. Some lines of poetry have strong (easily recognizable) caesurae, which usually coincide with punctuation, while others have weak ones.

Pope was able to keep his heroic couplets interesting by varying the position of the caesurae, as here:

Alas how changed! || What sudden horrors rise!
A naked lover || bound and bleeding lies!
Where, where was Eloise? || her voice, her hand,
Her poniard, || had opposed the dire command.

Maybe more plausible than katakana?

King Solomon Hill
11-19-2008, 11:10 AM
This might not be much help, but it may narrow things down a bit.
Here (http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/images3/86866a.jpg) is a picture of what I think was the first commercially available Compact Cassette recorder from 1965, sold by Phillips under the Norleco brand.
As you can see it doesn't feature the standard button layout, so it's probably fairly safe to assume that it was a later invention and not part of the original specification.

KneadToKnow
11-19-2008, 11:16 AM
I'm 90% my first audio cassette recorder, a Panasonic ca. 1977, had the now-standard square block for stop, the triangle pointing to the right (not forward, OP: there is no "forward" in two-dimensional symbolspace :)) for play, and 60% certain it had the double triangles for fast forward and rewind. The record button was a different color but didn't have the circular dot now associated with the record function. I don't remember if the pause button had a symbol it had a pause button.

Mr. Moto
11-19-2008, 12:28 PM
This might not be much help, but it may narrow things down a bit.
Here (http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/images3/86866a.jpg) is a picture of what I think was the first commercially available Compact Cassette recorder from 1965, sold by Phillips under the Norleco brand.
As you can see it doesn't feature the standard button layout, so it's probably fairly safe to assume that it was a later invention and not part of the original specification.

Looks fairly standard to me - the problem is that you're thinking of buttons where this uses a series of switches. Bit even here fast forward, rewind and play have the form we usually recall today, and record is the round red dot - again a form all of us would recognize.

ntcrawler
11-19-2008, 01:15 PM
This might not be much help, but it may narrow things down a bit.
Here (http://history.sandiego.edu/GEN/recording/images3/86866a.jpg) is a picture of what I think was the first commercially available Compact Cassette recorder from 1965, sold by Phillips under the Norleco brand.
As you can see it doesn't feature the standard button layout, so it's probably fairly safe to assume that it was a later invention and not part of the original specification.

Interesting. We still have that cassette recorder. We also have a Grundig De Luxe open-reel tape recorder from the same time period, which does feature the standard icon set (play, pause, fast forward, rewind, stop, and record). So it did exist at this time period, but may not have been standardized across manufacturers yet.

This isn't the one, but a model from 1963:

http://www.reelprosoundguys.com/images/1963_GRUNDIG_TK_41.jpg

and it has the standard icon-set for tape operations.

Whereas this model from 1961 does not:

http://www.reelprosoundguys.com/images/1961_GRUNDIG_TK_14.jpg

So somewhere between 1961-1963 it seems someone decided to lay down the groundwork for this. By the late 1960's it seems to have been widely adopted

Colophon
11-19-2008, 01:28 PM
This isn't the one, but a model from 1963:

http://www.reelprosoundguys.com/images/1963_GRUNDIG_TK_41.jpg

and it has the standard icon-set for tape operations.


Does it? Where? I only see the red dot for record and then single forward and backward arrows, which presumably just show the direction of tape movement. I don't see the square for stop, two lines for pause or double arrow for FF/REW, but the picture is pretty small so I can't see what's on all the buttons.

Peter Morris
11-19-2008, 01:50 PM
Sony's first Betamax VCR had them in 1975
http://www.rewindmuseum.com/betamax.htm

At least the single and double arrows are clearly there. The record button is red, but a bar not a dot. The picture's not clear, but it looks like it could be a double line for pause.

ntcrawler
11-19-2008, 04:28 PM
Sony's first Betamax VCR had them in 1975
http://www.rewindmuseum.com/betamax.htm

At least the single and double arrows are clearly there. The record button is red, but a bar not a dot. The picture's not clear, but it looks like it could be a double line for pause.


It goes much earlier than that. Sony also had them on their tape recorders, including this one:

http://www.mishkids.com/rzSonytapecorder.jpg

which according to the website was used between 1964 and 1967.

DocCathode
11-19-2008, 06:53 PM
Do the play and other arrows point the opposite direction in places where the language is read from right to left?

Dog80
11-19-2008, 08:52 PM
Do the play and other arrows point the opposite direction in places where the language is read from right to left?

AFAIK the arrow points to the direction of movement of the tape. On models where you load the cassete upside-down the arrow points to the left

Frylock
11-19-2008, 10:47 PM
(not forward, OP: there is no "forward" in two-dimensional symbolspace :))

:confused:

Not seeing it.

-FrL-

seodoa
11-19-2008, 11:50 PM
:confused:

Not seeing it.

-FrL-

It's easier to think of it this way:

You have two arrows, one points right, one points left. Which one points "forward?" That answer is completely arbitrary. It might seem obvious to some that the one pointing right is forward, but that is culturally-based, most likely a result of our left-to-right reading system. Someone from a right-to-left culture might interpret the left pointing arrow as "forward."

However, as was mentioned earlier, the "play" arrow isn't necessarily always pointing right, rather it is sometimes pointing in the direction that the tape winds. I don't have enough experience with tape decks to confirm this, but it makes sense. So, perhaps, in this case "forward" works. The "forward" here could be interpreted as, "the direction of movement which advances the tape forward." A contrived interpretation, maybe, but definitely understandable and commonly inferred.

ntcrawler
11-20-2008, 12:02 AM
It's easier to think of it this way:
However, as was mentioned earlier, the "play" arrow isn't necessarily always pointing right, rather it is sometimes pointing in the direction that the tape winds. I don't have enough experience with tape decks to confirm this, but it makes sense. So, perhaps, in this case "forward" works. The "forward" here could be interpreted as, "the direction of movement which advances the tape forward." A contrived interpretation, maybe, but definitely understandable and commonly inferred.

Quite right. "Forward" in this case means the direction in which the tap advances during normal playback. Fast forward would then be the same direction, only... well... faster. And "reverse" would be opposite of the direction of normal playback. Which way does a tape play? That depends on the design of the playback device. Some cassette decks load the tape upside-down so it winds to the left. And on models with auto-reverse the tape may also wind to the left, although from the recording's point of view it is moving "forward" in order to play back your music.

seodoa
11-20-2008, 12:12 AM
Quite right. "Forward" in this case means the direction in which the tap advances during normal playback. Fast forward would then be the same direction, only... well... faster. And "reverse" would be opposite of the direction of normal playback. Which way does a tape play? That depends on the design of the playback device. Some cassette decks load the tape upside-down so it winds to the left. And on models with auto-reverse the tape may also wind to the left, although from the recording's point of view it is moving "forward" in order to play back your music.

Just as I suspected. So, the bottomline is while "forward" has no inherent meaning in two-dimensional symbolspace, that doesn't mean you cannot define it. So, while we can all appreciate KneadToKnow's joke, it doesn't exactly work here because, WRT tape decks, "forward" is defined. In fact, using "right" or "left" in this case would be misguided as not all tapedecks use right-pointing arrows. However, can we be certain that all tapedecks follow the "point the arrow in the direction the tape advances" convention? Can anybody give any recent examples of tape decks that defy this convention? I'm sure there are older ones that follow weird conventions before things became more standardized, as we have all seen, but I'm more interested in recent examples. Let's say in the past 15-20 years.

Sunspace
11-20-2008, 01:26 AM
My tape deck has two 'play' buttons on each cassette well. One points to the right and the other points to the left. If you push the right-pointing one, the tape advances to the right and the deck plays the program whose label is on the front of the cassette, facing outwards. If you push the left-pointing button, the tape advances to the left and the deck plays the program on the other side of the tape, whose label faces the back of the cassette well.

Colophon
11-20-2008, 07:17 AM
My tape deck has two 'play' buttons on each cassette well. One points to the right and the other points to the left. If you push the right-pointing one, the tape advances to the right and the deck plays the program whose label is on the front of the cassette, facing outwards. If you push the left-pointing button, the tape advances to the left and the deck plays the program on the other side of the tape, whose label faces the back of the cassette well.
What happens if you press both at once? :p

I'm still curious about the Pause symbol, though. I'm fairly convinced by the caesura (||) theory that I quoted above, but it would be interesting to know for sure. Also, any Japanese speakers care to comment on the "ri" katakana idea? Sounds dubious to me.

seodoa
11-20-2008, 08:55 AM
What happens if you press both at once? :p

I'm still curious about the Pause symbol, though. I'm fairly convinced by the caesura (||) theory that I quoted above, but it would be interesting to know for sure. Also, any Japanese speakers care to comment on the "ri" katakana idea? Sounds dubious to me.

Hadn't even thought to weigh in on "リ." AFAIK that is bogus. I have never seen "ri" used to mean a pause and, in Japan, the word "pause" (as in what you might see written on a tape deck) is "ichijiteishi" written "一時停止" in kanji and "いちじていし" in hiragana. Although I suppose you could make some crazy connection between い and the pause symbol, I don't think it is likely. On every tape deck and VCR I have seen here, if it has a pause button, it will be just the regular pause symbol with "一時停止" in kanji usually written next to it.

FWIW, my Mitsubishi VCR doesn't even HAVE a pause button. Just a stop button, "teishi" or 停止.

Frylock
11-20-2008, 09:01 AM
So, while we can all appreciate KneadToKnow's joke, it doesn't exactly work here because, WRT tape decks, "forward" is defined.

Yes, this.

(Except for the part about understanding the joke, which I didn't, because the thing that makes the joke not work is so blatantly obvious.)

-FrL-

Frylock
11-20-2008, 09:03 AM
Rightward movement as forward movement seems like a pretty well engrained convention in Western culture. It's how we read, both music and text.

I wonder if there have been many leftward pointing forward arrows in cultures where writing goes right to left instead of left to right.

-FrL-

seodoa
11-20-2008, 09:20 AM
Rightward movement as forward movement seems like a pretty well engrained convention in Western culture. It's how we read, both music and text.

I wonder if there have been many leftward pointing forward arrows in cultures where writing goes right to left instead of left to right.

-FrL-

Yeah, that was pretty much the thrust of my argument. We say right is forward because that's the way we view things as a culture, particularly WRT reading. And I agree, it would be interesting to hear from someone else about what is a forward-pointing arrow. Japanese allows text to be written (and read) in a couple different directions, so I'm curious what answer I would get from my coworkers.

I think I'll conduct a little study tomorrow morning... :D

Oh, and re: katakana "ri" as the pause symbol, I have found no connection searching Japanese Wikipedia or Japanese Google... Considering that the original source for the statement wouldn't even meet the dirt standard, let alone a gold one, I am going to say it is safe to discount it. I mean, come on, the original source was not only a post on "answerbag.com" it was a single, uncited, one-sentence post that was also the user's only post on the site.

Fear the Turtle
11-20-2008, 01:46 PM
I always thought the double lines were from the "U" in PAUSE (with the lower part cutoff, obviously). Am I completely off base?

KneadToKnow
11-20-2008, 04:04 PM
I thought that was the supposed origin of the "double-vertical-strikethrough" dollar sign.

Vox Imperatoris
11-20-2008, 07:21 PM
Ok, then. The caesura theory seems likely for the pause symbol, and I guess that the square for stop could be interpreted as the absence of an arrow.

What about the circle for record?

Valete,
Vox Imperatoris

haridesign
04-02-2015, 08:02 PM
Hello: Back in the 60's, I was a designer for the Ampex Corporation. One day, F. Arden Farey, the manager of industrial design gave me the task to create an icon for pause since the company was marketing in foriegn markets and the word "pause" didn't translate well in most foriegn languages. I looked at pause and finally decided that it was a "sorta" stop. After generating concepts, I decided to use the square of stop and break it up or interupt the box. A horzontal line would have given an "equals" symbol and other designs wouldn't work well as small graphic symbols. So, the vertical was decided upon for its ease of reading but also it created what I called a "stutter stop" symbol. So, although I am Japanese American, ther is no esoteric or Zen meaning, just straight forward design problem solving.
i was employed at Ampex in Elk Grove Village, IL from 1964 to 1971, in the consumer products division on Landmier Road and Estes Ave.

zut
04-02-2015, 08:16 PM
Oooh. sweet!

What was the first product the "stutter stop" symbol was used on? Do you remember?

friedo
04-02-2015, 08:51 PM
Hello: Back in the 60's, I was a designer for the Ampex Corporation. One day, F. Arden Farey, the manager of industrial design gave me the task to create an icon for pause since the company was marketing in foriegn markets and the word "pause" didn't translate well in most foriegn languages. I looked at pause and finally decided that it was a "sorta" stop. After generating concepts, I decided to use the square of stop and break it up or interupt the box. A horzontal line would have given an "equals" symbol and other designs wouldn't work well as small graphic symbols. So, the vertical was decided upon for its ease of reading but also it created what I called a "stutter stop" symbol. So, although I am Japanese American, ther is no esoteric or Zen meaning, just straight forward design problem solving.
i was employed at Ampex in Elk Grove Village, IL from 1964 to 1971, in the consumer products division on Landmier Road and Estes Ave.

Thanks for sharing this! But that raises another question: what's the origin of the square for "stop?"

Sage Rat
04-02-2015, 09:08 PM
I realize that this is an old thread, but assuming that further investigation ensues, it seems like people should consider professional recording equipment as they search backwards. It would seem likely that the record industry would have the earliest equipment for manipulating the time on a recording, not personal and home devices. From there, it would be fairly simple for those symbols to show up in consumer wares.

Duckster
04-02-2015, 09:22 PM
They are road signs for your daily rituals-the instantly recognized symbols and icons you press, click, and ogle countless times a day when you interact with your computer. But how much do you know about their origins?

http://gizmodo.com/5612630/the-secret-histories-of-those-ing-computer-symbols

robert_columbia
04-02-2015, 09:42 PM
AFAIK the arrow points to the direction of movement of the tape. On models where you load the cassete upside-down the arrow points to the left

What about when the symbol appears in software, where there is no physical tape? My English-language copy of Windows Media Player has the button going to the right. Anyone have a version of it in a language that goes right to left, like Hebrew, Arabic, or Farsi? Does it go to the right too or have they changed it to go to the left?

Mangetout
04-03-2015, 03:53 AM
Did we really just get a visit from the guy who invented the pause symbol?

Leaffan
04-03-2015, 05:14 AM
Did we really just get a visit from the guy who invented the pause symbol?
Rather cool, ain't it?

Aspidistra
04-03-2015, 06:41 AM
The incidental details certainly sound convincing...

Relevant Google (http://www.google.com/patents/USD207203)

buddha_david
04-03-2015, 07:41 AM
One day, F. Arden Farey...
Bloody awesome name.

commasense
04-03-2015, 06:54 PM
While I have no intention of questioning the veracity of our new member haridesign, I occasionally worked with and around Ampex audio and video recorders in the 1970s, and couldn't recall them using that pause symbol.

So I've just spent almost an hour Googling images of Ampex VTRs and ATRs from the 1950s to the 1980s, and haven't found any that even have a pause button, much less one with the vertical lines pause symbol. Some ATRs had an "Edit" button, for instance, this one (http://soniccircus.com/ampex_440_vintage_tape_machine_a1.jpg), the Ampex 440 audio deck, which was introduced in 1967. A plain white button, with the word "EDIT" above it. And IIRC, it didn't function as a pause button: it stopped the take-up reel, so that when you hit play, the tape would spill onto the floor.

The Ampex VTRs I've found didn't have pause or edit buttons, just Stop, Play, and Record, with large initial letters of those words, and < and > symbols for rewind and fast forward. Like here (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/58/AMPEX_2_ZOLL.jpg).

I've always associated the pause symbol with Sony products. I'm not saying they invented it, but I'm pretty sure it was on a Sony producr, probably a 1960s ATR, that I first saw it. And the square for Stop, too.

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