The word “Zoom” has acquired a new meaning for many of us over the last month or so. It’s the name of a video conferencing App or, to quote from its own website, “Zoom is the leader in modern enterprise video communications, with an easy, reliable cloud platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars”. Unlike Skype or WhatsApp, for example, the company has chosen a common English word for its product, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining worldwide recognition in recent weeks.
My first experience of Zoom for video conferencing came last Wednesday, an online Passover celebration arranged by a member of my wife’s family. Four households here in London were connected with a further four in Israel, one in Sweden and one in Canada, around 25 people in all. The gathering (or “meeting”) was for under an hour. You might be more familiar with the mechanics of these things than I am, but I believe that a subscriber to Zoom (in this case one of my wife’s nephews) can host a meeting for non-subscribers (like us) for up to 45 minutes. We only had to connect via a weblink. It all worked very well but for straightforward video calls we will carry on using Skype.
The word “Zoom” also has a place in our online shopping. Ocado has been our online grocery service for over a decade and my wife has been a “Smart Pass” holder for many years. This has given her an advantage in booking deliveries recently but the gap between available delivery slots is still the greatest it has ever been. Official advice suggests that, in keeping with lockdown, everyone can simply use online shopping and avoid leaving the house, but as so often the reality has been very different. Demand for delivery slots has exceeded supply to a huge extent, with every supermarket chain being affected. We are fortunate to live in an area covered by “Ocado Zoom”, a locally-based option which seems to operate like those theatres (remember them?) which have discounted tickets available for people who queue up for them first thing. As a teenager I once queued up at the National Theatre before 8am to get tickets for that evening’s star-studded performance of “Othello” (Sir Paul Scofield in the title role, Felicity Kendal as Desdemona). Similarly, my wife was up before 6am this morning and online soon afterwards to book a Zoom delivery from Ocado which arrived before lunch-time – all this, I should point out, on a Bank Holiday Monday.
When I was a child the word Zoom meant, primarily, a type of ice lolly. I wrote about it in this piece back in May 2018, linking to a piece on the Memories Menu, and explaining the rules regarding ice lollies that applied in my childhood: Zoom were for boys, Fab were for girls.
“Zoom” is also the title of a hit single by Fat Larry’s Band that reached #2 in the UK charts in 1982. It’s the highest chart placing for any release beginning with the last letter of the alphabet. There has never been a UK #1 hit that begins with the letter “Z”, but every other letter provides the starting point for at least one chart-topper, even “Q” (“Queen of my Heart”, Westlife, 2001) and “X” (“Xanadu”, Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra, 1980).