There’s a code for the multiplication symbol: xxx-ing use it!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Listen to or watch any smartphone review this year and there’s an energetic reference to the camera’s zoom. “7 to 12x”. X?

What’s Zoom then?

Zoom is the change of a camera lens’ focal length. We zoom in to make the subject appear bigger in the frame and zoom out to; well, you get the idea.

  • An equivalent focal length of 18mm produces an exceptionally wide viewing angle of a scene.
  • 12mm is near “fish-eye” where a 360-degree horizon is imaged into a circle.
  • 55mm is roughly the equivalent of our eyes’ natural field of view.

Anything above is telephoto. Values rise to excess of 1000mm for sports lenses zooming into the eyes of a sportsperson from half a pitch away. This all depends on the camera’s sensor and that’s another story.

The amount of magnification is described by how many times larger the subject appears in the frame between the shortest focal length to the longest.

A camera that can magnify a subject 7 times larger from it’s shortest to maximum focal length is said to have a “7 times” zoom. As an “x” visibly indicates multiplication in Math, it seems reasonable to use the “x” as an abbreviation in writing? For fact, that’s ableist.

X is Ableist?

People using screen-readers or only listening to audio will hear, “7 ex”.

This takes cognitive effort to convert into “times” multiplication and to be honest, it sounds weird:

  • Few people would read out 50cm as “50 cee ems”? It’s 50 centimeters.
  • Fewer still would read out “pee tee” for a pint abbreviated to “pt”? It’s a pint. (Warm and hoppy).
  • What would they make of a freaking tbsp?

I’m going to call it what it is. Stupid – and that’s only my opinion, which really doesn’t matter.

This Matters

What matters is our writing “x” for “times”. It may not be the most difficult error to recompose in one’s head and it is still unnecessary.

  • It is highly context dependent and the distraction may be difficult to overcome. Comprehension can be difficult enough.
  • When aiming for internationalisation the letter “x” (read as “ex”) will not reliably translate as “times” (multiplication).

Correcting x to ×

Sadly, the stupidity of “ex” for camera zoom is already out of the bag and not on my watch!

There is a code for the multiplication symbol and we should xxx-ing well use it:

  • Unicode: × (×)
  • HEX: × (×)
  • HTML: × (×)
  • HTML entity: \00D7 ()

What’s Worse than X?

Can anything be worse than “x” for multiplication? Yes. Turning a “+” symbol 45-degrees and using it as a Close symbol. Some ableist idiots actually do that. Bad people. So bad. Other idiots use an “x”.

What? You use the multiplication symbol for Close?!! Arrrggghhh!!

Closing With CSS?

I’ve added the following inclusive demonstration Close button using CSS for fun. We could improve the :hover and :focus of course and you get the idea? No more “x”, “+” or “×” for close!

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