January 30, 2010

Even your old grandma can do it...

Fraser Speirs on the iPad.

... I fear this January-26th thinking misses the point.

What you're seeing in the industry's reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.

For years we've all held to the belief that computing had to be made simpler for the 'average person'. I find it difficult to come to any conclusion other than that we have totally failed in this effort.

Secretly, I suspect, we technologists quite liked the idea that Normals would be dependent on us for our technological shamanism. Those incantations that only we can perform to heal their computers, those oracular proclamations that we make over the future and the blessings we bestow on purchasing choices.

Ask yourself this: in what other walk of life do grown adults depend on other people to help them buy something? Women often turn to men to help them purchase a car but that's because of the obnoxious misogyny of car dealers, not because ladies worry that the car they buy won't work on their local roads. (Sorry computer/car analogy. My bad.)

I'm often saddened by the infantilising effect of high technology on adults. From being in control of their world, they're thrust back to a childish, mediaeval world in which gremlins appear to torment them and disappear at will and against which magic, spells, and the local witch doctor are their only refuges.

With the iPhone OS as incarnated in the iPad, Apple proposes to do something about this, and I mean really do something about it instead of just talking about doing something about it, and the world is going mental....

Is the radical simplicity and ease-of-use of the iPad the real point? As a Mac user I've seen this aspect growing for a while now. Especially in the way all those apps that begin with an "i" work together. I don't actually like it very much; it always makes me feel cranky and rebellious. I never download pictures from my camera into iPhoto, I'd rather arrange my own folders.

But as soon as I get into some aspect of computing that I'm not familiar with, the same ease-of-use is liberating. I recently helped start a group in our parish that wanted to put podcasts of sermons on the web site. It seemed like an impossible mountain of technical juju to climb, and we assumed we would have to recruit "experts". I wanted to be my own expert, but I didn't have the time. I kind of jump-started things by making a sample podcast in Garageband. Then clicked one button to put that into a "blog" in iWeb. Then clicked another button and uploaded it to my iDisk.

I hated working in an Apple environment that assumed I was a "lifestyle" person (iWeb I mean, not Garageband, which I recommend.) But I loved being able to whip something up myself in a hour, and send a link to the group to see, and make them think, "Yes, we can do this.". (Here's a link to our website. The most recent podcast is on the right, and the podcast page is linked on the left. Not fancy, but a start.)

Posted by John Weidner at January 30, 2010 7:54 AM
Weblog by John Weidner