This is the genealogy of the programming language Icon:

Icon is a child of Snobol.
Icon was born in year 1970, and has not changed much since that time.

This genealogy is brought to you by the Programming Languages Genealogy Project.

In a GUI, an icon is a small image associated with an action, an idea, or just a thing. Icons are supposed to be easier to understand, as they present a concept without using words. So you don't even have to internationalise them. Icons have been used to denote all of the following (and probably more):

in toolbars, found on many modern applications.
Running instances of programs
in many window managers under the X window system.
Runnable programs and files
in 32-bit Windows systems
see e.g. the trashcan in Macintoshes and 32-bit Windows systems: dragging an object to the trashcan does [something].

So much for theory. Some simple icons are readily comprehensible: clicking a picture of a printer might reasonably "print" something (even here, though, should I click it, or should I drag and drop the file I want to print onto the printer, like I do with the trashcan? -- it depends where this printer is).

But what does half a ship's rudder wheel mean, if I don't remember Netscape used to be called "Navigator", and had that image? What if I fail to recognise the picture? How many pictures must I learn to recognise -- one for each action? Isn't that why we stopped using hieroglyphs and switched to letters?

Today, almost every icon has a textual accompaniment. Some icons take more screen space than the equivalent text. But they remain icons of user friendliness.

An icon (from Greek eikon, 'a picture') is a tempera painting of a saint, a holy picture of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Usually an icon is quite small (about 35 x 30cm) and painted on a thick plank of wood. Icons are not framed, although sometimes they are covered by a sheet of some precious metal (riiza), leaving only the saint's hands and face visible.

The art of icon painting originates from the early Christian and Byzantine tradition. Even today, icons are still painted mainly on those areas where Byzantine influence has been strong during the Middle Ages. Thus, best icons are produced in Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and the Carelia region. Icon painting has flourished especially in Russia, where first icons were imported from Byzantium during the eleventh century AD. The greatest masters of Russian icon painting were Theofanes the Greek (Feofan Grek) and Andrei Rubljov, both of whom lived during the fourteenth century.

In an Orthodox church, icons are placed on a special wall (an iconostasis) and at home, they have a corner of their own. When a guest enters the house, he must cross himself and bow to the icons before even greeting his host, because an icon is more than just a religious picture. It is a symbol of the unity of all true believers and a reminder of the presence of God among them.

Since the purpose of the icons is to convey a religious message, only trained Orthodox painters are allowed to produce them. Strict rules govern every aspect of icon painting: the way colours are to be mixed (an icon artist must produce his own paints by mixing them with egg yolk), how the saints should be depicted, even the range of colours used.

There are various types of icons, categorized by their subject. Most popular ones portray the Christ, the Holy Trinity or the Virgin Mary. These categories are further divided by the state of the saint depicted. For example, Khristos Pantokrator is a king-like Jesus on his throne, and a Tender Virgin portrays Saint Mary pressing her cheek against the baby Christ.

OED & a few history of art lectures

The Icon programming language.

Icon is a high-level general purpose language that is targeted towards processing strings and symbolic data.

It was developed at the University of Arizona from research associated with the Snobol programming language. While Icon has it's roots in Snobol, the syntax of the language is based upon the Algol (Pascal, C, etc.) family.

Icon does not use boolean style logic expressions, but instead relies on the concept of success and failure. Expressions are evaluated with a "goal" of trying to succeed. Icon functions can generate multiple results that can be applied within an expression to try to achieve the goal of success.

For example, given the following:

 s1 := "this is a string"

 if upto('s',s1) > 5 then write("Success")
 else write("failed... :(")

The upto function has a result sequence of {3,6,14} In evaluating the "if" statement, Icon will iterate over all result sequences until they are exhausted. Thus the snippet of code above would write "Success"

While Icon started it's life in the early 70's, there were several enhancements made to the language in the 80's and early 90's of which graphics support was one of the latest. The language itself has stablized. Minor enhancements (mostly in the implementation) are still being made.

Recently a new implementation (Jcon) was created using Java's JVM as the back-end.

An Object Oriented variant (Unicon) is currently being developed.

The name Icon was adopted prior to using little graphical images to represent programs or files.

More information about Icon can be found at:

More information about Unicon can be found at:

Advertising icons are hard things to pin down.

I mean, it should be easy, right? For a brand icon to be considered iconic, it should in some way visually represent the name of the company as a whole - the Chili's logo is a luscious red chili pepper; the IBM logo, while not that inventive-seeming nowadays, does have the advantage of telling you exactly what company it represents (though, admittedly, not what it does).

But what do you do with a company whose logo holds no iconic representation of the company at all? By the common rationale, the word "Swoosh" would mean nothing to you, and yet it's practically a given that reading that word made the name "Nike" spring into your head. The Nike Swoosh is, in reality, one of the earliest and most successful non-representative corporate icons in history.

What Nike did was open up a whole new world of brand perception, the kind of thing that makes market analysts start to uncontrollably salivate; the determination of a corporate logo's iconic perception, a thing that used to be as easy to determine as looking at a brand logo and seeing what comes to mind, is now a far more complicated issue for the typical ass-backwards reason.

In a nutshell, truly representative company logos are sometimes as hard to pin down as their more ambiguous counterparts - if I showed the average person four iconic representations of, say, a Puma, and asked them to tell me which one was the logo for the Puma athletic company, many of them would be hard-pressed to tell me which one fit. If, however, I showed the same person four different versions of another brand with a totally non-representative logo (say, Chrysler) the same person would be right a huge portion of the time because the brand's presence is that powerful.

This stuff is vitally important for a company to know. It's studies like this, for instance, that told Mars that the Snickers brand was recognizable enough to create print ads that feature fake words (like 'Nougatocity") written in the style of the real Snickers logo - it's the study that told them that people weren't going to look at the ads and thought "what the hell is that," or worse, "Oh! Milky Way!" It's also these kinds of studies that tell companies what other icons the people who recognize your brand also tend to recognize so you know where to spend your advertising money.

I"con (I"kon), n. [L., fr. Gr. e'ikw`n.]

An image or representation; a portrait or pretended portrait.

Netherlands whose names and icons are published.


© Webster 1913

I"con, n. (Gr. Ch.)

A sacred picture representing the Virgin Mary, Christ, a saint, or a martyr, and having the same function as an image of such a person in the Latin Church.


© Webster 1913

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