OFF THE RECORD: Are you a screen sophisticate?

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Screen Sophisticate: One who has a highly developed knowledge of the ways of the computer screen.

I am not. I am learning but I will always be behind the folks who are growing up with the screen as an integral part of their lives.

I thought of that when I was cruising the local mall recently. I paused and watched a young father show his toddler how to use her finger to navigate a game on the father's smartphone. I am sure the child is learning to walk and talk, but she will know how to use her finger on the screen long before she is an accomplished walker or talker. If the child becomes a lawyer, she will think nothing of strolling into court with a tablet computer or something as yet to be created, which will, of course, have all the files needed and be wirelessly connected to the court's system.

Today's law school graduates are quite comfortable with the screen as a tool. The rest of us can learn. Like all disciplines, there is a learning curve and the first task is to learn the language of screens. Let's start with some of the basics:

* Binary--the number system used in computer science is binary or a base-2 system using two symbols: 0 and 1. The binary number 11000101110, for example, is equivalent to 1582. Frankly, that is as much as you need to know unless you want to explore the base 2 world, which I don't. I had enough trouble understanding our base 10 system. I am a lawyer not a mathematician.

* Bit--(binary digit) is the smallest piece of information used by a computer consisting of either 0 or 1.

* Byte--(binary term)--the basic measurement of computer data and consists of 8 bits. Computer storage is measured in larger increments of bytes such as Kilobyte (1024 bytes), Megabyte (1024 Kilobytes) Gigabyte (1024 Megabytes) then Terabyte, Petabyte, Exabyte, Zettabyte, Yottabyte, in order of increasing volume and following the same pattern. What does that mean in paper? One Megabyte is about 500 pages or one thick book, while 1 Terabyte is about 1 million thick books.

If opposing counsel says he is sending 3 Megabytes of discovery, that's a lot but may be doable; if, however, he is sending a Terabtye or two, you might want to file a motion seeking help from the court or just say no.

While that is probably enough of the techie stuff for today, I will add two more:

* App or application--is the program in which you do your work. If on an iPad, you access the Apps with a touch of your finger. Apps are narrowly useful since the apps on the tablet screen are used to find information, not for creating it and each must be opened individually. Apps such as QuickOffice Pro can be used to write a letter or document but might be awkward when it comes to editing it.

If you are using your tablet to read a brief or court case, there are, for example, apps (such as GoodReader or iAnnotate) for writing notes, highlighting text, making comments or underlining parts of a document that are helpful.

* Software--files on a disk that contain instructions for a computer--such as Microsoft Word or Excel or Firefox--which you install on your computer to use when creating documents or spreadsheets or going on the Internet. These programs have many more bells and whistles than the apps.

That is probably enough techie stuff for today. I think, by learning a few terms and practicing on your tablet or computer, you and I can become more proficient and less awkward and truly be screen sophisticates. I will keep at it and I welcome you to join me.

Published: Fri, Aug 16, 2013