n. An auditory icon: a sound that is used to represent a specific event or object.
The pilot's headphones will have a 3-D sound system so that the voice of another crew member will seem to come from that person, to avoid confusion. Audio "earcons" will signal certain events — a sucking sound will warn of fuel exhaustion, for instance. Speech input will be used to control non-essential systems.
—Lamont Wood, “Fashion takes high-tech turn,” The Chicago Tribune, March 04, 2002
At Rank Xerox EuroPARC in Cambridge, England, the emphasis is on creating auditory icons, or "earcons." The sound of approaching footsteps, for example, indicates that someone is about to open a dialogue with you on a computer network.
—Hugh Aldersey-Williams, “Interactivity with a human face,” Technology Review, February 01, 1996
1988 (earliest)
He is editing a special edition of the journal Human-Computer Interaction, on the use of non-speech audio in the computer's output. Small but meaningful sounds have become known as 'earcons,' by a punning analogy with 'icons.' To those who doubt their importance, Buxton says: 'all you have to do play a video game like PacMan. Turn the sound off and your score will go down. It clearly contains information that is valuable.'
—Tony Durham, “The human touch — Professor Bill Buxton's hopes for improvements in the man-machine interface,” The Guardian, August 04, 1988
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