Icon Without Substance

A Story: More than a decade ago

I will never forget how my teacher taught me the basics of Microsoft Windows. Right after graduating from college, 15 years ago, I enrolled in a computer literacy program—a two-week course covering the Windows basic applications: word, excel, powerpoint, and internet explorer.

However, before I was exposed to the application softwares, I was first taught how to navigate through the Windows operating system—exploring the complex forest-like stacks of cascaded folders, from system folder to utilities to MyDocuments. I learned how to open, create and delete a folder, and to transfer them from one location to another. “When you create a folder be sure not to forget the name, and always remember where you saved it, otherwise, you will consume time locating it the next time you’ll need it,” my teacher warned me. He then followed with, “You will use the same technique when creating a file, so always remember that.

Then he taught me how to create a shortcut icon. Sometimes, when I want immediate access to a folder I saved in MyDocuments, I may create a shortcut icon in the desktop. Whenever I double-click the shortcut, Windows automatically open the original folder saved hidden in MyDocuments.

However,” this time, a stern warning, “when you delete the original folder (in MyDocuments), the shortcut icon (in the desktop) is not automatically deleted with it. So when you try to open it, Windows will pop up a message — with a flashlight waving left and right as if searching for something—saying that the original folder cannot be located.” When the original file is gone, its shortcut icon becomes useless.

Fifteen years have passed and his message remained clear and fresh in my head: an icon without substance is meaningless.