Technology pinches terminology

August 29, 2012|By TIM ROWLAND |
  • Tim Rowland
File photo

For me, one very practical result has come out of the Apple vs. Samsung smartphone technology smackdown. I could never keep it straight in my head whether pinching made the screen bigger or smaller.

So I’d try to track the path of a thunderstorm by focusing in on Washington County, and wind up with a map showing the weather from Hilton Head to Manitoba. And, take it from me, without being able to figure out the zoom technology, porn on a smartphone is all but worthless.

But now that “pinch to zoom” has become part of the lexicon, I’ll never forget it again. Pinch, zoom. Got it. Same motion you use for Skoal — except, of course, for those boys around here who’ve gone straight to sprinkling it on their food.

So now that I’m straight on this ...

Hold on. There seems to be one itsy-bitsy problem here. Like Ronald Reagan, I believe in the doctrine of “trust, but verify,” and when I did a test on the ole iPhone, it turns out it’s just the opposite. Pinching widens the angle; it doesn’t zoom at all.

What’s up with that, iPhone? Is the “i” supposed to stand for “idiot?” I know that technology swallows everything in its path and makes its own rules as it goes along, but would it kill you to learn the language?

Dictionary, please: “zoom: change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa.”

Or vice versa? Uh-oh. It can be both? So you’re telling me that not only my understanding of “pinch” is flawed, but so is my understanding of “zoom?” They cancel each other out, so I’m right back where I started. I’ll never remember what a pinch does to the screen now.

Except, for the record, I’d like to say that this is a pretty stupid definition of “zoom.” You never hear a bird-watcher say, “Hold on a sec, I just need to zoom out on this thrush so I can get a better view of his crest.”

Al Michaels never says “let’s zoom back from where his elbow hit the ground so we have no idea where they should spot the ball.”

“There’s Pam Anderson on the beach again. Let me zoom far, far away, so I don’t get too good a look.”

Of course maybe I need to zoom back from this whole argument because there’s a larger issue at play: Did some Very Large Company just win $1 billion (billion!) from some other Very Large Company based on the way people around the world wiggle their fingers?

We’re lucky that Smith Corona didn’t think of this, or it could have been locked in an epic legal war with Remington over the shift key.

Next time you flip someone the bird, watch out, you might be opening yourself up to a lawsuit brought by New York Yankee fans.

Yes indeed boys and girls, send that finger up your nose at your own risk because the courts are watching. All manner of thoughtless, finger-related gestures that we thought were safe might now be protected by complex international patent law.

If “pinch to zoom” is proprietary, what about “scratch to sniff?” I’m sure the scratching motion does something on my phone, I just haven’t figured out what it is.

I personally am very nervous about pinching and scratching, but I am most concerned about flicking. In the course of the day, I flick all kinds of things — crumbs, flies, ears. And then do the courts acknowledge a difference between thumb-assisted and nonthumb-assisted flicking?

The difference could mean millions of dollars. Because, apparently, the courts know exactly where your fingers have been.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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