Language is strange – why do we say “hang up the phone” even when using a cell phone? This page documents some examples of “skeuomorphisms” in our common vernacular.
I’ll be updating this page as I come across more!
- An object or feature which imitates the design of a similar artifact made from another material.
- In computing: An element of a graphical user interface which mimics a physical object.
- 📞 “Hang up the Phone”
- Wall-mounted landline telephones had a hook to “hang” the receiver on.
- 🗣️ “Call”
- You don’t have to shout anymore.
- ☎️ (Re)dial
- Early telephones had an actual rotary dial to select the numbers you would call.
- 🛎️ “The Phone is Ringing”
- 🔊 Ringtone
- Early telephones had an actual bell that would ring when a specific “ringing tone” was received (in North America this is alternating 440 Hz and 480 Hz tones). As the ringing tone required to set off the bell differed from region to region, the term “ringtone” became synonymous with being able to change the sound of an electronic telephone’s “ringing” audio.
Computers and the Internet
- ✂️ Cut and Paste
- Editing on paper involved actual scissors and glue.
- 📰 Message “Board”
- A community message board is often a literal corkboard.
- 🌎 “Get Online”
- Before Wi-Fi, computers needed to be physically connected to a phone line and modem to access the Internet.
- 📧 Email “CC”
- To send a physical letter in duplicate, you would need to create a CC, or “Carbon Copy”.
Media and Electronics
- ⏪ Rewind
- 📼 “Tape it”
- 📹 “Get it on Tape”
- Cassettes, the primary storage medium before optical disks, contained magnetic tape wound around two spindles.
- 📻 “Stay Tuned”
- 🎛️ Tune In / Tune Out
- Radio and television broadcasts require frequency matching (just like tuning an instrument).
- 📴 “Turn” On/Off
- Most early electronic devices featured a rotating power selector.
- 🧊 Icebox
- Before refrigeration, keeping food fresh involved actual blocks of ice.
- 🪔 “Turn out the Light”
- Gas and oil lamps had a dial which, when turned, would snuff out the flame.
- 🚗 “Roll the Window Up/Down”
- Sliding automobile passenger windows used to be operated via a hand crank.
Like what you read? Consider buying me a coffee.