Origin of play, stop, pause, etc. buttons?

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? :stuck_out_tongue:

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.

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.)


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.


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… :smiley:

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.

I always thought the double lines were from the “U” in PAUSE (with the lower part cutoff, obviously). Am I completely off base?

I thought that was the supposed origin of the “double-vertical-strikethrough” dollar sign.

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?

Vox Imperatoris

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.

Oooh. sweet!

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

Thanks for sharing this! But that raises another question: what’s the origin of the square for “stop?”

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.

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?

Did we really just get a visit from the guy who invented the pause symbol?

Rather cool, ain’t it?

The incidental details certainly sound convincing…

Relevant Google

Bloody awesome name.

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, 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.

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.