Did you know what the Power Switch symbol present on every gadget really means?

Look closely at the following power switch symbol in the picture below. For most people that little upright dash in the middle of an O is something you may be seeing everyday on almost every technical gadget requiring a power system. Your cell phone, your sound system, you computer; they all display the same sign. Till today, you might have thought that this was just a symbol for power.


To some extent you may be right, but there is much more to the meaning of this symbol that you may have never known about.

1 The Logic between symbols of power

There is a logic to the symbol marked by and I and O. The symbol basically stands for On/off in the manner of a toggle switch, but how did it come about and how did it come to appear this way. Till this symbol originated, power was displayed by two switches symbolized with the words ‘on’ and ‘off.’


If you notice closely, the I and O are marked in two different ways. One is with a semi broken O and denotes a switch that represents the on and off power with standby or sleep mode. In fact this symbol has a standard label called IEC 5009, where IEC stands for International Electrical Commission.

The Logic between symbols of power

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2 The New IEC 5009 Symbolized After A Waning Moon

Apart from IEC 5009, there is also the symbol known as the IEC 5010. This was denoted by a vertical dash in the middle of a complete circle and symbolized a dot and dash originating from binary code of modern user interface design. This symbolized the basic on and off without sleep mode.

The symbol of the I and O power switch symbol has its origins in binary code which also consists of a series of vertical dashes and zeroes whose entire set converts into computer logic. What you see as a program is actually nothing but a series of different sequences of I’s and O’s.

The New IEC 5009 Symbolized After A Waning Moon

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3 The symbol of sleep mode and power is now a fashion icon of the 21st century

The exact meaning of the standby symbol IEC 5009 was part of a proposal, explaining it to be a waning moon. This indicated a status of low power or sleep mode. The symbolism was adopted by power commissions in dec 2004.


It is the binary power switch symbol 5009, which has achieved iconic status today. Not only does it feature on all technical gadget, it has also become a fashion symbol and is displayed on many accessories and garments of the fashion world. As the power button, it symbolizes power and is also the brand name adopted by a popular NYC contraceptive brand called Power On.

exact meaning of the standby symbol

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