Is there a particular reason? I've always wondered why.

I beam pointer

  • 3
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about User Experience.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 17:44
  • 1
    Here's a patent on it google.com/patents/US5655093 but it doesn't go into any deep UX reasoning nor does it necessarily mean this is when and where it was invented. The answer to most of these types of question is "because that's how someone drew it and it stuck".
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 17:51
  • @DA01 Can you provide me with the correct community for this question? Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 12:16
  • I don't know if there is one. It's really more of a "computer user interface history" question. The point of my comment was simply to point out that not all UI decisions are UX based. Sometimes they're just completely arbitrary.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


The I-beam is just a descriptive term, as it resembles a construction I-beam, the correct term would be 'a caret'. - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-beam

Apparantly it has several uses, first of all, the idea is that it doesn't resemble an existing character. This means that it's first real uses where on graphical displays and not so much on character based systems (where they'd often use either a blinking, fat underscore or a blinking square (to indicate overwrite mode). - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cursor_(user_interface)

My hypothesis is, that it actually seems to come from the hairline indicator on a slide ruler, to indicate the position on a ruler. This seems fairly accurate as this is actually what it does: indicate the point of insertion/deletion. enter image description here

A real caret (^), on the other hand, is in copy used to indicate a point of insertion; where content is missing. - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caret

That's as far as my research went so far, happy to share more if I find more :-)

  • 1
    I'd say this is a really nice theory. However, without citations I think it has to remain as a theory.
    – DA01
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 17:52
  • I agree, but, as you found yourself, I doubt I'll be able to find any citation, as it probably is just something that somebody drew and thought it dit a nice enough job. Anyhow, if I dig up anything to back me up or totally destroy my theory, I'll post it here :-)
    – Xabre
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 20:21
  • 1
    Just to be pedantic - it's a hypothesis, not a theory.
    – JonW
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 9:39

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.