The Evolution of Push-Buttons.
Look out for a free library of some assorted call-to-action buttons – at the end of this article, designed by us at The Banana Design Company, for you with love.
The spectacular world of Dexter’s Laboratory, portrayed the love affair of the boy genius Dexter with inventions and the marvels of technology. We millenials would remember it as a fascinating world where the mere push of a button could result in both, magical as well as disastrous things! While the push-button may have been received with a similar apprehension in its initial years, it is impossible to imagine a life without push-buttons today. Somewhere between watching the Flintstones’ explorations with primitive technology and the stark contrast of the Jetsons exploring a luxurious future – functioning at the push of a button, the world warmed up to push-buttons too!
Today, push- buttons are symbolic of convenience, luxury, control, automation, leisure and ease and equate to power and satisfaction. It is possible to obtain and summon, almost everything, well, at the push of a button. Almost akin to magic, the push-button can conjure up anything – it is our gateway to experiences. From snooze, play, stop, click, start, restart, on, off and lock and unlock, our day begins and ends with the interaction with these buttons, without even realising! This concept of pushing a button to get work done has become such an intrinsic part of our day- to -day lives, that it is almost taken for granted in today’s digital age.
The humble push- button has come a long way since its inception from hundreds of years ago. We go back in time, to celebrate some of its known milestones and explore this journey – of the shift of power from hands to thumbs to fingers to gestures!
Lights, Camera, Action:
The push-button flashed its way into our homes, through the flashlight. This marked a transition from mechanical to electronic age – a transition from dials, levers and switches. We began photographing memories; at the push of a button, with Kodak – the first hand – held box shaped camera, introduced by George Eastman in the 1890’s. But developing film then,was nowhere as easy as it is now. The camera contained 100 exposure roll of film. The entire camera had to be sent back to the manufacturer for printing and developing once the film was exhausted! The Kodak slogan even read, ” You press the button, we do the rest!”equating buttons to ease!
In 1910, push-buttons were introduced in electrical switches. Annoying the neighbours quickly followed suit, with push- button doorbells. Cars weren’t far behind. Did you know: the electric starters that we see on car dashboards today, appeared way back – as early as 1912! The 1914 Ford Model T, for example, had a push button starter on the floorboard!
The first notion of pushing a button to ‘save’ was introduced in 1938, when the mighty push- button made its way to radios, allowing the listeners to save their favourite stations through presets. By 1956, we were controlling faraway objects with push- buttons in remote controls. The push- button could now surpass distance! Soon the push- button was seen in automated household appliances too. From cooking, to driving, to laundry, we were doing everything with the push of a button by the 1960’s! As machines began to get more complicated, engineers began using more buttons to automate – in different shapes, sizes and colours, with nomenclature as labels for differentiation. Today’s virtual call- to- action buttons follow a remarkably similar practice!
A Bigger “Hello” To Push- Buttons:
The rotary dial layout of the telephone received a major makeover in 1964, when Bell Laboratories; after a series of explorations, released the Touch-Tone Dial, featuring the 0-9 keypad layout. The push- button now had a square form and had an emotional significance – of connecting with a loved one, faster and more efficiently. This 0-9 keypad transition was also of mammoth significance as it paved way for the interfaces of the future – making its appearance in mobiles, tablets, and ATM machines and continues to be used in devices with numerical data.
Push to Play:
The first ever home video game, The Magnavox Odyssey, featured controllers with knobs. Joysticks made an appearance with the Atari 2600 console in 1977. The second generation consoles bid goodbye to knobs and joysticks altogether and embraced face buttons. Nintendo introduced the first patented d-pad – the four way directional control. The Sega Mega Drive controllers had imprinted buttons. More buttons were added to controllers in tandem with the game’s features and functions. Buttons began to get visually appealing and truly creative – with their colours, shape and design, when they ventured into play!
The Button Goes Digital And Virtual:
The world clicked with the mouse in 1970! Conceptualised by Douglas Engelbart, the first ever computer mouse was rectangular, wooden and bulky, with a single button on the top right corner. The computer mouse didn’t gain popularity until Macintosh created an updated redesign of the computer mouse in 1984. Macintosh was also the first to introduce the buttons as a virtual entity with its point and click commands and dialogue boxes on screen. Clicking a virtual button was now the equivalent of pushing a physical button in the real world.
In the early days of the web, the first virtual buttons appeared as blinking graphics and GIFs. Raised 3D buttons – in the same colour as the dialog box, made an appearance in different operating systems. As the web began to get cleaner and minimal, buttons became flatter, with elements of hierarchy for visual cues. At the same time, as computers began to get better at multitasking, more virtual buttons were added to this interface. With the introduction of taskbars and title bars, virtual buttons began to get iconized. Every function and action had an icon of its own. Clicking transitioned to activating buttons through touch with the introduction of touch phones.
The Future Of Buttons:
Buttons are our gateway to experiences. From 3D buttons, to floating action buttons to ghost buttons, virtual buttons now are constantly redefining their visual identity – losing shape and developing form and character, unique to the online experiences they offer. The size, shape, labels and colour of the buttons is carefully handcrafted to be more interactive and engaging, for a better conversation with the users. From a physical entity to a virtual one, the push-button has undergone several remarkable transformations – from push, to click to touch.
But it doesn’t end here. The advent of virtual reality, augmented reality and voice based interfaces brings with it the possibility of eliminating the button altogether! With the Amazon Alexa’s voice guided virtual assistance, and wearable technology and gestural interfaces taking a more organic and natural approach to user interaction, the call-to-action button is taking a new avatar; metamorphosing into an ambient, whimsical, fluid and almost formless entity – enabling us to trigger events with our body.A new and exciting future of interface is nearing !
Here’s a library of some assorted and widely used call- to- action buttons – for your use and inspiration, designed by us, at The Banana Design Company, with love.