Skip to main content

The iPad

Yes, I caved (or, was tipped slightly further, causing me to plummet into the cavern into which I was desperately staring) and bought an iPad. Wifi-only, because I'm cheap, but bought one nonetheless. And here's why.

Douglas Adams.

No, I'm serious. It's slowly becoming a cliche, but the iPad is the first step in realizing the vision of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; the nerd's fantasy of an always connected, always updated book that tells you just what you need to know, now. It is a device that offers entertainment, wisdom, and places to get wasted. It is the Guide.

Any self-respecting (or moderately self-aware) nerd, geek, dweeb, A/V manager, or sys admin worth their salt has read the Sacred Tomes more than thrice. Annually if you want a really well-punched card. And the vision of that universe is a system of knowledge that crosses galaxies, instantaneously, if not accurately, to deliver the wisdom of people more worldly-wise-than-you to a device you can reasonably purchase. Adams himself saw the Internet to have the potential for this vision.

I did not, however, buy an iPad because I am some visionary sage of future tech. If that was my nature, I would be investing in toe nail collections (they have gold, you know). No, I bought it simply out of gadget lust. Nothing more, nothing less.

But then I saw what it did to people.

(Disclaimer, I'm well aware of the post-facto justification this post will sound like. Work with me through the rest; I'm writing with my biases prominently on display.)

I knew something was different on a Sunday a few weeks ago. My "in-laws" (not married) were over, with a visit from J--'s sister. I'd laid out the iPad casually, because I'm an attention whore like that. Everyone but J--'s mother was eager to try it; poked around the apps on it, flipped into the App Store to search for their favorite topic, things I'd seen a dozen people prior to them do at work.

J--'s mother, however, wanted nothing to with it. It didn't interest her, it was odd and different. She didn't need it. It got tossed back onto the coffee table. Then J--'s mother and I started talking about recipes for smoking meats while sitting on the couch (sidenote: I'd inherited a smoker from them and I LOVE it). I wanted to look up a recipe I'd seen, so I reached for the iPad. I didn't do it to use the device, I reached for it because I didn't want to leave the room and break up the conversation.

I fired up Safari and started searching, finding the first candidate. J--'s mum perked up, but that wasn't the one. I search again. Closer, but she was sure she'd seen it somewhere else. I searched again but got further away.

J--'s mom got frustrated. She knew was it was, but couldn't articulate it. So I handed her the iPad. I pointed out the search bar in Safari, made her tap to open the keyboard, and watched as she searched up the recipe. She emailed it to me, then proceeded to spend 20 minutes surfing various sites, zooming, opening multiple windows. She was a power user in less than half an hour. Her husband had to ask if they were leaving anytime soon to get her to stop.

And I knew. This was something different. I'd bought it out of lust, but fallen into the trap laid two decades ago by Douglas Adams. My Nerdself craved the interactive, ubiquitous ability to conjure up knowledge with my own fingers. Apple's device isn't magic, as so many marketing videos claim. But it is a visceral fulfillment of so many subconscious wishes. It can't fail because we want it to succeed so much.

It is also the harbinger of how things will be. As with other things, it's the first of many similar things. It may not be the most featured, but it is the more polished. There will certainly be Android touch tablets to follow, maybe even a Palm OS or Windows version. But Apple is defining the experience right now.

In 10 years, we'll all have devices like this and wonder how we put up with things like mice, possibly even wondering what kind of idiot would have a 40-pound box stashed underneath their desk. Apple may not win the battle for market ($DEITY knows they've blown it many times before). But the model for how to interact is being changed and the future is being redefined. It's an exciting time.


  1. Wow! Nice blog post. I have not tried one yet. I am afraid if i touch one i will be buying one the next day or sooner. I think you are right they will be around for a while in place of your cell phone.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

RIP Tom Petty

Tom Petty died today, aged 66. I won't claim to be a huge Tom Petty fan, but I've bought an album or two and sang along in the car to one of those songs everyone knows. I'll  stream a lot of his catalog today to remember the songs I've heard once or hundreds of times.

I also owe Petty credit for a singular moment in my life, and one I never expected to last in my mind.

Nearly 20 years ago, I was a fresh-ish faced transplant to Ann Arbor, MI by way of my first "real job" out of college, working for a software company in Dexter. I was renting a house with some other folks who'd also been displaced as a result of a fire at my first apartment. I was the only family member East of Lansing, which made me a contact point for anyone going through Detroit Metro airport.

Which is how my uncle Dean came to spend a few hours with me one evening. At the time, my grandparents (his parents) were wintering in Texas. My grandfather had health problems most of his life and…

Google Inbox: A classic Google product

My work domain (an EDU) recently had Google Inbox enabled so I had a good chance to try it out. My personal email is relatively quiet and, I believe, doesn't provide a good Inbox experience. Work is more active and requires actual management, something I've tossed many a tool at over the years. As part of my work life, I supported the Google Apps for EDU installation here and took a pretty extensive presentation to campus about how to manage large amounts of email.

Inbox is a classic Google product: the distillation of a number of excellent ideas into a set of half-complete features built for a use case most people don't meet. We've seen this in the past in products like ChromeVox, Google's Chrome extension for accessibility. ChromeVox works great on ChromeOS devices, but completely ignores the point that most users of accessibility tech (AT) don't have or want ChromeOS devices and come to services with their AT in tow. ChromeVox also ignores decades of convent…


Evernote, for better or worse, is the best note-taking service for my needs. It works across all my devices/computers/modes. It's fairly easy to get stuff into it. Hell, they even have 2-Factor authentication. The Windows app is a little clunky and my girlfriend and I have never been able to get shared notes to work properly (conflicted note! three times in the same grocery trip!), but what service is perfect? At least they have nice socks.

Everything, in fact, is pretty good as long as you don't screw up. And screw up I did. I'm not very regular about making backups, but I do make them every month or so. Once you figure out how to create a backup, that is.

There's a helpful Export Note option (which turns into Export Notes when you select multiple notes HINT). The export process is essentially opening All Notes, selecting every note, and then choosing Export Notes. Or something like that; Evernote never tells you, you're left to figure it out on your own. The file…