The origin of the Apple command-key symbol ⌘

Posted Aug 3, 2015

If you are a PC user you may have seen the Windows-button on your keyboard. But if you are a hardcore Mac user, as I am, you have probably seen and used the command-key [ ⌘ ] instead. But have you ever wondered what the symbol actually stand for?

Back in the old days - before I was even born. Apple computer keyboards had an Apple-key [  ] as well. The key was used in the same way as todays command-key. If you press and hold the key together with another key, you select an option in the menu of the current running application in OS X.

The key combination to use to select a menu option is indicated in the menu.

Command-key combinations

One afternoon, the developers where demonstrating the MacDraw application for Steve Jobs. As you can imagine, there was a whole bunch of apples before the command-key symbol was invented, and that made him really upset!

“There are too many Apples on the screen! It’s ridiculous! We’re taking the Apple logo in vain! We’ve got to stop doing that!”

But how do you find an icon meaning “Command”? That’s not an easy task. The bitmap artist at Apple, Susan Kare, was flipping through an international symbol dictionary searching for inspiration. And there it was! The looped square!

The looped square is well known symbol to us Swedes since we see it on our road signs daily. The sign is used to indicate an attraction or a cultural interest. And since 1983, it’s also used by Apple on their keyboards!

There has been a speculation around where the symbol actually origins from, and that it should be an aerial view of Borgholm Castle. However, the first discovery of the symbol goes back to 400-600 A.D… Centuries before the castle was even built.

For those of you who are interested in this story told by Andy Hertzfeld himself. You can read it here.