Why is there a save button?

If you look on google for “why is there a save button” you get a lot of results with “why is there no save button.”

People NEED save buttons. That must be why they still exist, because certainly the computers don’t need them.

The save button seems to have come from the technical nature of computers from way back when. There is volatile random access memory, and there is more persistent storage, a hard disk or SD card, or think way back, floppy disks, magnetic tape, and punch cards.

In addition, you could sort of use the two layers of storage, one temporary and one permanent as an undo mechanism. You play around with your data in the application you’re using, and when you’re sure it’s right, you save it permanently. But if you messed something up, you always knew you could go back to the copy saved on the permanent storage.

Well, let’s fast forward to 2013. There’s an already old joke going around, “Why is the icon for ‘save’ a picture of a floppy disk?” Most kids wouldn’t even know what that is. That just goes to show icons are in fact arbitrary which probably explains why I have such a hard time figuring out what they’re supposed to mean.

At least there are hovers on PCs, alas, tablets and phones don’t support hovering as there is no pointer, so it’s pretty much pot luck what’s going to happen when you press one of those buttons with the funny picture on it on your phone.

But I digress.

It’s 2013 again and you still have to hit save to keep from losing your work.

Some higher-end applications like ultraedit and Microsoft word will actually save what you’re doing without you telling it specifically to do so, and they have recovery mechanisms if the program ended for some reason without you actually hitting save.

To me, it seems kinda backwards. Imagine the real world for a second. You have a bag full of groceries on the kitchen table. You take out each item and put it in it’s final resting place, the fridge or the cabinet or the pantry. You don’t then have to say to the bag “ok, I mean it now, keep everything where I put it.”

The contents of the bag are going to stay where you put them, they’re not going to magically appear back in the bag if you leave the room unexpectedly while unpacking.

Why is it so backwards with computers?

The permanent storage is now fast enough that every little change you make can be stored as you do it.

And if you’re worried about having that undo mechanism, there’s plenty of software technology behind undo already built into lots of popular software.

Why on earth do we still have to hit save?

Why is there a save button at all?

I notice that google docs spreadsheet has no save button, but includes a message saying “all changes saved in drive” all the time. Perhaps google got something else right?

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