Legacy survivors in modern times: the cursor

Although modern technology moves forward in full gear, there are still old-fashioned solutions that are resilient enough to stand the test of time. Like digital equivalents of living fossils, they have managed to survive the disruptive effect of technological innovation and still seem to thrive in highly modern IT-environments.

In this series, we will take a closer look at some of these technological dinosaurs that are still present in our modern times. To kick things off, we’re gonna take a closer look at a familiar icon that every promising writer, fanatic keyboard warrior, or computer and internet user will undoubtedly recognize: the cursor.

Origins of the cursor

Cursors have patiently witnessed the spawning of many digitally written masterpieces or served as gateways to fulfilling many internet desires. Fittingly for a concept that first came into existence in now seemingly ancient technological times, the name “cursor” comes from the stately Latin language and means “runner”.

The idea behind the cursor? Imitating the movement of the even more archaic, pre-IT carriage of the classical typewriter. Cursors are often used to highlight text or objects on the screen so that they can be selected. You usually move and control the cursor with a mouse, touchpad, or similar input device (a trackball is a good example).

Types of cursors

A cursor is a cursor, right? Think again. This grand old component of the virtual environments that we dwell in comes in several shapes and variations. Main types of cursors are:

  • Text insertion cursors. These are an aspiring writer’s best friend (if they work properly that is) and used to indicate where text can be inserted. They usually take the shape of blinking lines that appear at the beginning or end of a text box.
  • Pointing cursors indicate where your mouse pointer is located and appear as arrows that point in the direction the mouse is moving.
  • Do you want to select text or other items on your screen? Then the selection cursor is the digital tool that comes to your aid. Selection cursors are usually I-beams or crosshairs that appear when you slide the mouse over a particular item.
  • Busy cursors indicate that your computer is busy processing data. The sometimes endlessly spinning wheel of frustration is the trademark symbol of the busy cursor in action.

Here to stay

Sure, cursors may seem rather insignificant and remnants of the stone age of IT technology. They are also sometimes a source of frustration, especially when you’re dealing with dead clicks, rage clicks, or trashed and randomly disappearing cursors. At the same time, they are still an essential element of any operating system or computer program, since cursors provide one of the few ways for users to interact with the interface and perform various actions. So if you like it or not: the cursor is here to stay for quite some time…