words mean things. so do logos.

I've been seeing a lot of people walking around with t-shirts with this logo on them: . You probably think that logo means "POWER!!" You are wrong. Your shirt doesn't say "POWER!!", it says "I'm a dumbass", because that logo actually means "Standby". Its use is governed by the "Energy Star" standard. The logo for "power" is . The logo for "off" is . Sometimes (but not often), you'll see "on" and "off" combined as .

This public service message has been brought to you by the words benefit, fundraiser, decimate, penultimate, and inappropriate.

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68 Responses:

  1. When not in computer terms, that symbol means a penis in a vagina...

  2. inoci says:

    when my wife first saw that symbol on a shirt (yes, one of my old ones from thinkgeek), she assumed it was a stylized middle finger.
    i've come to like that interpretation, and found it amusing that whenever i wore it, she would flip me off.

    i'm assuming you'd do the same.

  3. latemodel says:

    You forgot "bemused".

    • rapier1 says:

      I can see bemused - of course Merriam Webster includes the 'wry humour' definition. I'm not sure I see where inappropriate, benefit, or fundraiser are coming from though. Have people started using them in odd ways that I've been fortunately sheltered from?

  4. djverablue says:

    my brother has that tattooed on his neck. i'm going to have to tease him about this.

  5. jbacardi says:

    That's funny- I see that and I think on the on-off button on a computer, just like the one next to my right hand as I type. I have a feeling that wearing this is intended to signify identification with one; as in "I have an on-off button, just like my PC/Mac!" Tee hee!

    I suppose it is a POWER!! button as well, but doesn't really make sense within the context...

  6. adamrmeyers says:

    My computer's on-off button has that shape on it.

    • So does mine, but it's a mixed-mode button. When the power is on, pressing it momentarily places the computer into standby. It only actually turns the computer off if I press and hold it for 4 seconds.

      All the computers in my household work this way, as do all the computers I have at work (which is a lot).

      • jwz says:

        This button of which you speak is not a "power" button. A "power" button introduces an air-gap into the electrical circuit. The button you have is a momentary switch that toggles a bit in some register, and then software reacts to that in whatever way. Anything that has the logo does not actually power off the machine, or that button would be unable to power it back on again. In other words, a device with that logo on the button is still consuming electricity unless disconnected from mains and battery.

        • kebernet says:

          Yeah, I always understood | as "closed circuit" and O as "open circuit".

        • genericvox says:

          So Microsoft is wrong (again)?

          • hadlock says:

            ...and apple. My TiBook (g4 powerbook) has this logo on my power button. It's not actually a switch, but it's a button.

          • deyo says:

            Nope. That is the Xbox's standby button. It reduces the power consumption to 2.5 watts.

            • genericvox says:

              Good gravy...
              Thanks for the link.

              I've always assumed they were power buttons because they "turn on" the item in question. Granted that my idea of turning something on or off doesn't include the actual power cord, because of course if it's not plugged in, it's not going to work anyway...

              Although I stand corrected, there's still the argument that some people may actually want a shirt with a symbol that means "standby". Who knows...

        • Valid point.

          The only real power switch on the computer I'm at now is manual -- unplugging the power cable.

        • gryazi says:

          "Mains?" Who is this New Zealander, and what has he done with jwz?

        • jkow says:

          Well.. that button turns on my Dell-notebook, so that function is definitely not Standby. ;)

          • jwz says:

            You're a moron.

            • jkow says:

              I like reading your journal, I love your mixtapes and xscreensaver. From time to time I even understand your personal "attacks" against people commenting in your journal. Doing that because someone made a joke about some mislabled button... well, I don't get the point.

              • jwz says:

                The reason you're a moron is that you posted a response that was already made, and rebutted, in the very thread you're replying to. So either you didn't read it (which is what I assume) or it was some kind of humor by way of intentionally missing the point and feigning ignorance (which I imagine you will now claim). Either way, I find that "you're a moron" is the appropriate response there. Hope that helps. Have a nice day.

                • jkow says:

                  Thanks for clarifying. I (just figured out I) had a very narrow understanding of the word standby, only thinking of the ACPI-Standby function, which is not what was being discussed in this thread. In the now seen context, I agree my comment was stupid. But hey,.. it was almost 2am over here which may make me slow-witted, but not a moron. ;)

  7. andr00 says:

    Companies are doing it, too. I walk by this thing every day and it bugs me for this exact reason.

  8. icis_machine says:

    ok, so what does this mean?

  9. surferelf says:

    Eh. I like it, and I'll probably get one eventually. So if I'm wearing it and I get sneered at by jwz, I'll still be ahead because I'll be in SF and not here.

  10. 'Alternatively, under IEEE 1621, this symbol simply means "power"'

    • scullin says:

      This was introduced in 2004, and guess what was the rational for that? People were confused and assumed it meant power. IEEE 1621 introduced the "crescent moon" symbol for "Standby" and, boy, let me tell you, that's taken off.

  11. netsharc says:

    I think Macs have the "Standby" logo on their on/off button. My Lenovo laptop has Power slash Standby on it, never noticed it before. So no "off"? One monitor has the combo on/off button, and another one has standby. How odd indeed!

    Stereo has "Standby", which fits because it can't be turned off with the button; it can be either fully on or displaying the time.

    • wisn says:

      They use a standby symbol because the button toggles between on, sleep, and off modes. The off mode isn't truly off; it still draws a trickle from wall power (or the battery, if it's an unplugged laptop). Like HAL, You can't fully power down a Mac without partially disassembling it. White box PCs usually have an old-fashioned electrical rocker switch on the power supply in addition to a more accessible soft power button.

  12. mc_kingfish says:


  13. I continue to be confused by the big open circle thing that looks like a turned-on television that means "off", and the skinny vertical line that looks like a television being turned off that means "on". How did they get it so backwards?

    • jwz says:

      Dude, it's a 1 and a 0, WTF.

    • karlshea says:

      Also, 0 = Open circuit (off), 1 = closed circuit (on)

      • Yes, that's certainly true. But that mapping is somewhat artificial and only makes sense after you already know it. I deal with zeros and ones representing logic states all the time. Generally at a level lower than your ordinary Citizen. Part of the confusion is seeing that representation coming up from the internal hardware and used right there on the faceplate of a piece of consumer electronics.

  14. kraquehaus says:

    Then again, the power of the masses can re-appropriate an icon/word/etc. and garner it a new meaning into the lexicon that may even run somewhat counter to the "official term".

    And as another pointed out the IEEE is apparently backing such a move.

    So you might be "officially" right for the time being, but soon you may end upon the side of "formerly known as".

  15. porphyre says:


    I've always liked that my shirt meant "standby"...

  16. korgmeister says:

    Looking at my IBM Thinkcentre, I can see a glowing green thing that looks exactly like that "Standby" symbol.

    I wonder what the fuck that means?

    Nice work, Lenovo.

  17. poisonedpure says:

    If a female non geek knows that this means standby, then that's saying something guys.

    Want me to spell it out for you in a mathematical equation? It might make it easier for you to understand.

    Seriously guys, get a better t-shirt. Probably one that will help you get laid by something other than an autobot.

    Why does my mind automatically echo the voice of countless geeks before screaming "It's an action figure, not a doll!"

  18. OK, I've heard your schpeil on the last word--want to share with me about the rest?

  19. arakyd says:

    Eh. I don't know anyone who wears those shirts, but if it's supposed to represent actual control of power rather than just the word "power" (words have meanings because we usually care more about the meanings than the actual words themselves), then it doesn't really make a difference whether that control is in hardware or software. Most people don't know the difference because 99% of the time the difference is irrelevant. Except to nerds, who brandish their knowledge of technical arcana, often with little regard for relevance, as a means of displaying social status. Thus we see that Real Men Divert The Electron Flow With Their Bare Hands (and jwz is a bigger nerd than people who wear shirts with the standby logo).

  20. msjen says:

    the informatik shirt i have on right now sort of has that logo...although, it's upside down, so don't really know what they were going for there.

  21. sclatter says:

    I have one of those shirts. The "power" connotation is not so important to me; I still like it because the logo glows in the dark. Also, in my single days, it was amusing to wear it out because drunk guys thought they were clever offering to press the button for me.

    Come to think of it, maybe that's why I never wear it anymore.

  22. bugpowered says:

    I see a big cargo of FAIL coming this way.

    As someone already pointed out:

    Alternatively, under IEEE 1621, this symbol simply means "power"
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_symbol#cite_note-1 )

    Which is also what the symbol stands for in everyday use (as in, "honey, press the power button to turn this thing off"), regardless of any anal pedantic definition.

  23. veevi says:

    Given that this is the logo for the Web 2.0 expo (hence the source of the shirts) and said expo appears to be ground zero for the New Media Douchebags you mentioned earlier this week, none of this should be at all suprising to you.

    • jwz says:

      Actually I had no idea that that was the logo for Douchebag 2.0 Expo. That makes this even better!

  24. _alexiscone says:

    I have a feeling I'm more lame than everyone now, since I want a shirt that says "[standby]me".

    I guess it'd be too frustrating explaining over and over what I know now, that my shirt says "stand by me" instead of "power me" because "that symbol doesn't mean... it means..." and "oh, you didn't like that movie? well what about the song? well, I mean, it's not so much about that, it's just I'm single and I figured it'd be a cute way of..."

    Yeah, lamer than everyone now.

  25. I think I just got pwnd. So why do so many power buttons use the 'standby' glyph?

    • wisn says:

      Two possibilities: The devices are still drawing current even though they're not functional, or because the industrial designers screwed up.