The Power On Icon

heaterA few days ago I was talking to one of the tech support people at work, when I noticed a heater he had in the corner of his office. Our campus is apparently one of the “greenest” buildings in North America, which means that when it’s freezing outside, it’s freezing inside. Our campus is cold-blooded, you see.

Thus, the heater.

I noticed attached to his heater was a foot-activated switch that you stomped on when you wanted to turn the heater on. On this switch was the seemingly universal symbol for “Power”, which up until this point I had only noticed on computers. I’m sure you’ve seen it before - it’s the nearly closed circle with a gap at the top, and there’s a short vertical line that passes from the outside of the circle partway into the centre via this gap.

After noticing the power icon on the heater, I looked around to confirm that yes, nearly every computer we had in the building had a power-on icon that looked exactly like this, or at least very close:


What I want to know is, who invented this icon? What products was it first used on? What’s the story behind how it has spread into apparent ubiquity?

rockerOnOff.jpgI’ve tried to do some research, but googling has proved fruitless. The tech support guy postulated that it could have originally represented a graphically simplified finger pressing a button. I thought it might something to do with the amalgamation of the old binary-style rocker on-off switch’s icons.

Either way, even if one of us is close on how the symbol originated, we still have no idea on its genesis. Anyone?

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