Originally Posted by kevin
it's got to be a german thing.

i used to deliver steel to a german-owned warehouse in chicago. an immense place-- 60-foot high racks of bar, angle, tube, and strap, all shapes and sizes, stored lengthwise in little cubbyholes, hole after hole, rack after rack.

the unloaders would crane the steel off my truck onto a table, and then punch a series of buttons to tell the computer where to pick up the steel, where in the warehouse to take it, and which cubbyhole to shove it into. then the automatic overhead crane would loom into view and take it away.

as i remember, the keypad was about fifteen buttons across and a dozen buttons high. all the buttons were labelled with individual and unique icons to tell the operator which button told what to the computer. but because there were so many functions, the icons were incomprehensible-- squiggles, squares, lightning bolts, zigs, zags, stars, and triangles. the symbols were all unique, but there was no ergonomic symbolism visible anywhere. couldn't tell what the buttons did.

attached to the side the keypad was a manufacturer-supplied key to the buttons in english, with words to tell the operator what crane actions corresponded to what symbol, so he could go to the keypad and punch the correct buttons.

by doing it this way, the germans had to provide each destination country with two sets of instructions-- one universal keypad with the heiroglyphics, and then a matching language-coded sign to interpret the symbols.

nobody in germany ever thought to just put the language-codes (which they had to make up anyway for each country) on the buttons themselves, and then to just skip the icons.

Ever heard of the Enigma machines?????