Who invented the ‘Pause’ icon?

The other day as I was going to the office, I saw a billboard – with a huge red Pause icon.

The moment I say ‘Pause’ , most of us have a clear symbol in mind – But, how did this symbol come to be associated with the Pause in our MP3 players, iPods, DVD Players, VCRs and so on?

Electronic gadgets began carrying the Pause button sometime around the 1960s.

Here are the various theories about the origin of the indispensable “Pause” –

1. The symbol for a capacitor (which is basically the same) – A capacitor is a bit like a pause button, they both cause something to stop for a while.

2. The caesura symbol in music, often called “train tracks.” It looks like this: || but often slanted to the right. It’s also used to mark pauses in verse.

3. It comes from the Japanese character “リ” which indicates a pause. That is the character “ri”.

4. From the letter ‘U’, with the bottom part cut off (though I don’t have any clue on what the letter ‘U’ has to do with Pause, or Play for that matter).

These are the reigning theories. However, only the second theory (caesura symbol in music) seems to have a lot of takers. Number 3 and 4 are considered as plain rubbish. And theory numero uno has no existence outside of a little forum post (which was refuted right then and there).

So, what do you think is the answer? Where did the ‘Pause’ icon originate from?

4 thoughts on “Who invented the ‘Pause’ icon?”

  1. A toddler drawing on the walls in a red marker…and his mother needed a pause button to make him stop because she was up to her armpits in bread-dough. (Toddlers draw vertical lines before they draw horizontal ones.)
    Hey, I don’t know! LOL

    1. I loved that comment. And I am thankful (atleast for now) that my toddler hasn’t yet discovered the joys of scribbling on the walls 🙂

  2. I think the pause icon came out when women got fed up of us men braggin n showing off bout useless stuff to them that she raised both her hands(in parallel) in disbelief and with the realization that she will not be able to compete with such nonsense.:)

    Somehow, this theory does not have many takers.



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