What the hqiz is a skeuomorph?

Is it this?


Nah, that’s the xenomorph from the almost-forgotten TV drama, “Something is Out There.” For what it’s worth, it was quite terrifying at times, but noteworthy as it used this term long before the “Alien” franchise was born.

This is a skeuomorph:


It will be easily recognized as the universal “save” icon in many computer programs. But floppy disks are no longer used for saving things (for the most part,) and many young people have probably never even seen or held one.

Wikipedia defines a skeuomorph thusly:

[It] is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of binding on a paper desk calendar. The term ‘skeuomorph’ is compounded from the Greek: skéuos, σκεῦος (container or tool), and morphḗ, μορφή (shape). It has been applied to material objects since 1890 and is now also used to describe computer and mobile interfaces.

Webster’s 3rd International Dictionary contains 472,000 words, of which I know but a fraction. Despite the fact that my education has not been wanting and it takes a concerted effort to get me scurrying to the dictionary, this was a new one on me and I learned it over at reddit. It’s kind of like octothorpe, the ten-dollar word for the hash mark, number sign, or pound sign (#) now so commonly used at Twitter and elsewhere. #insanity

Some other examples of skeuomorphs:


An electric kettle in the form of a stove-top kettle.


This woody-style car, where the false wood grain is not part of the vehicle’s structure.


Sofware interface for an audio program, designed to look like a physical device.

What got me thinking about this is a picture of some really old candy-heart type floppy disks that must have been manufactured in the 80s or thereabouts:

candy disks

Back then, these would have been much more recognizable than they are today.

So remember that the next time you click on the little disk icon to save your document, you’re using a skeuomorph.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

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