A Visual History of Pinch to Zoom


I was curious about the origin of the Pinch to Zoom touchscreen gesture, however, I was unable to find a resource that displayed all of the examples of this popular touch command. I decided to do some research, and share my findings here on The Verge. What follows likely isn't the whole story, however, the process of creating this post really helped me better understand the subject.


Myron Krueger is a computer scientist and an experimental video artist, and is arguably orignal creator of Pinch to Zoom (even though, at the time of this writing, his Wikipedia entry doesn't mention it). Myron's work didn't involve a touchscreen. He used an elaborate setup involving a suspended video camera and computers, among other things. In this video from 1985, you can skip ahead to 2:20 for the pinch demo:


Incorporating a similar practice of dangling a heavy video camera over his head, Pierre Wellner's produced The Digital Desk at Rank Xerox EuroPARC in Cambridge, England in 1991. Check out an amusing acting performance and an example of a pinch highlighting gesture at 3:06:


Sun Microsystems, Bruce Tognazinni and a crew of "more than 100 engineers, designers, futurists, and filmakers" got together to make a short film entitled Starfire in 1992. The film is set in 2004, and it's centered around a fictitious product called the "Sun Video Collaboration Booth." This video is worth watching in its entirety just to hear the "swoosh" sounds the booth makes whenever anything happens. Skip ahead to 2:04 to see the pinch gesture, which is a command that duplicates a toolbar:

ZOINKS! Where da post go?

Hi. I've moved this post to my personal blog. You can finish reading it here:


I originally published this post here, at The Verge, but since then, people have reached out to me to update it with more information. Instead of updating this version of this post, and the one on my blog, I've decided to cut this one down, and make the other the master. Sorry for the inconvenience.