Young People Think the Old-School Save Icon Is a Vending Machine

Robin Zlotnick - Author

Aug. 12 2019, Updated 1:15 p.m. ET

Occasionally, a young person will say something, and we will be reminded that though we may consider ourselves youthful and spiritedly, we are indeed ancient, wrinkly beings who are rapidly hurtling toward death. Among the things a young person can say that will trigger that realization are the words "Jo Jo Siwa," and...that's all I got because I literally have no idea what else young people talk about these days.

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Alternatively, I know a lot of words that would probably make young people give me blisteringly blank stares. Among those are "VHS tapes," "Walkmen," "Leg warmers," and "floppy disks." You see, even though the floppy disk is still used as the universal "Save" icon in lots of computer programs, it recently became painfully clear that the floppy disk is obsolete when a young person asked why the save icon in Microsoft Excel is a vending machine. 

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A Japanese child who was using Microsoft Excel posted this picture to Twitter along with a caption asking, "Why is the save icon a vending machine with a beverage dispensed?" I have to be honest. When I first read this, I clutched my chest. You see, I am a millennial. Sure, I am an adult, but I'm a young adult!

I grew up in the '90s! I was a Disney kid! I had AIM and Facebook when it was new and still cool! I grew up with mp3 players and YouTube videos! I know technology! I'm cool! But alas, here I am screaming about how young I still am. 

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I feel you, Chris. I really do. Because while I did grow up typing my papers on the computer, I also remember when my family got our first computer. And I remember all the games we used to play that were housed on floppy disks. And there are some younger people out there who don't even know what floppy disks are. 

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They think that the save icon is a vending machine because they have never seen a square-shaped disc before. And as for the vending machine comparison, well...while it doesn't make any logical sense, it does sort of make visual sense when you take a look at what Japanese vending machines typically look like.

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While vending machines in the U.S. are taller and skinnier, Japanese vending machines do sort of look like the Microsoft Excel save icon. I have to admit it. But it makes no sense that a vending machine would be a save icon. I suppose that's why the original poster asked why they'd decide on that symbol. 

Even though I am now officially ancient because I know what a floppy disk is and in fact used to use them on a regular basis, I am not against technology advancing. I understand that things will move forward, and I can either be on board or I can get left behind. 

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I like to think I'm a go-with-the-flow kind of person, and although I may not understand the appeal of slime videos or know the names of pretty much any YouTube stars, I do understand that things change and young people may never know the hilarious simplicity of the computer games we used to plug in floppy disks to play. And with that in mind, I think this person might have a point...

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But some others on Twitter don't agree. "Just because younger generations won't naturally know the context of the symbol doesn't mean that they don't know what it means now. It's still useable and it's become a fun bit of history in the future. Quite honestly it would be sad to see it disappear!" one person wrote. 

Others claimed that they would be confused if the floppy disk icon were to disappear, but this person conceded that it may be time to give it up: "I guess it's more important for current and coming generations of users to see a symbol that they can relate to without having to study computer history."

We're often too precious about history and we fetishize the past to a degree that can be unhealthy. As a society, I think it's time to let go of the floppy disk icon and replace it with something that makes more sense. Who's with me?!

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