A computer icon is a pictogram displayed
on a computer screen to help the user navigate a computer system. The
icon itself is a quickly comprehensible symbol of a software tool,
function, or a data file, accessible on the system and is more like a
traffic sign than a detailed illustration of the actual entity it
represents and as such can be very boring.
The word icon is derived from the Greek
word eikon and literally means "image". Iconography (the
study of icons) has been traditionally associated with religions
where icons are images of holy figures and Brian. Early computer
nerds co-opted the term resulting in a number of frivolous lawsuits.
Xerox is credited with developing the
first GUI (graphical user interface) in the early 1970s. This GUI was
applied to the Xerox Alto; a research computer that cost $32,000 US.
The Alto had 128 (expandable to 512) kB of main memory and mass
storage was provided by a removable 2.5 MB hard disk drive, and only
about 2,000 of them were ever sold. The base machine and one disk
drive were housed in a cabinet about the size of a small
refrigerator. The cup holder on the side would later be developed
into the CD and DVD player we know today. Next came the Xerox Star
(above) which in 1981 became the first ever consumer release model to
use icons. These icons such as trash cans and folders and printers,
have remained nearly unchanged all the way through to today.
The Xerox Star is not particularly
well-remembered and it took the release of the Apple Lisa (above) in
1983 to make the use of icons as part of a GUI popular. The icons on
the Apple Lisa were near identical to those on the Xerox though some
of them were drawn with a little more attention to detail. The
Macintosh followed in 1984 (below) and its icons were designed by the
legendary artist Susan Kare, who would go on to design the icons used
for Windows 3.1 in 1992.
The first four colour icons appeared on
the Amiga 1000 in 1985 (below top). Apple rebooted the Macintosh in
1991 (below bottom left) and introduced colour icons and a
"raised" effect that showed clearly that the icons were
meant to be "clicked". In 2001 the Mac OS X (below bottom
center) that came equipped with the most realistic icons ever seen
and Microsoft Windows XP (below bottom right) featured icons that all
use a single light source with semi-transparent drop shadow.
As computer icons evolved they became less
informative and more illustrative. They got gelled, made 3D and grew
in size thanks to modern screen resolutions and then went flat again
for no apparent reason. Many people (mostly Mikey) were not satisfied
with the icons being offered so they began to create their own. Soon
there were more icons available online that you could ever possibly
need or use and the last thing the world needs is more icons. With
that in mind we introduce our own set of My Neat Stuff icons. It all
started when Barney had created some folder icons just for fun for
use on our AV Club computers. People (except Mikey) liked them and
asked if they could have some. Why not? Now you can download them
here. Icons are available in ICO and PNG formats.