Tuesday, July 29, 2008


i/o oddity

I'm often baffled when I look at a computer's on/off switch. Since "on" and "off" both start with "o," I can't remember which one, inexplicably, is represented by "i." So I just flip the switch-- it usually doesn't matter.

But why have that shorthand anyways? Is "on" and "off" just too onerous to write out?

I suspect it has something to do with the development of computers into a professional pursuit-- it needed its own language and symbols (beyond the symbols of computer code) to express that it requires specialized skill.

Or else, "on" and "off" are just too long to write out.

I could be completely wrong, but I had heard that the on/off switch has a 1 and a zero because in binary 1 is on and 0 is off.
NERD ALERT! hahah Just kidding
Anonymous 9:21 is right, except that i/o is actually I and O and not 1 and 0. I is on and 0 is off. It's a simplified form of input/output, which is the basis of the entire computing architecture, more or less.
Actually, they're taken from circuit symbols. A straight line means it will pass current easily (on or full power), a circle means the circuit will not pass current (off). You get mixes of these symbols to indicate other uses in computers, like most computer "reset" buttons have a circle w/ a line through it, indicating it performs both functions. You can check the IEEE specs from wikipedia. If you think in these terms (line means power flows), then it may be easier to remember.

Having been electrocuted as a result of misreading a circuit diagram, I find it fairly easy to remember. :)
I think you're all wrong. I've read The Da Vinci Code, and Dan Brown says that the circle represents the Holy Grail and the line represents the path you take to get there. (It used to be underneath a church in Scotland, but the last big cheese in the Knights Templar, Bill Gates, moved it.)
The first computers were invented by the Irish, right before the unrelated discovery of how to shut off electrical current in Ontario. You can figure it out from there.
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