iPad on Eaarth

iPad on Eaarth

I knew it was just a matter of time before I bought an iPad although I thought it would be a bit more time, like maybe a year so I could get version two.

At the same time that I’ve learned about the technical intricacies of computers I’ve gotten the most out of them when I know them well enough so the technical stuff falls into the background and I’m left just doing the task at hand, which, for me has mostly been writing and/or communicating.

How long it takes a person to learn this stuff well enough for it to fall into the background (different for each person) is the key to whether they’ll stick with it long enough for it to fall into the background… I know many people to this day who’ve been using computers for years yet still struggle with the simplest tasks (this is true in both the Windows and Macintosh worlds).

It’s doubtful that the iPad was conceived for these people but my guess is it’s what at least some of them have always wanted in a tool.

In my early days it was Apple IIe/AppleWriter, IBM PC/WordStar, the Radio Shack model 100, Macintosh/MacWrite, the AlphaSmart keyboard and a few others and lately I’ve been struggling to use my iPhone as a writing tool. I knew the iPad was going to be a sweet spot in this quest for the tool to elegantly fall into the background and now that I’ve had it for a week I can say I was right.

The Macintosh SE/30 felt right: it was the original small Macintosh box with enough power so that people who knew how to use a Mac could work fast without the machine getting in the way. The iPad is like that: the speed of the thing feels right: the design and power under the hood makes using it feel more natural. Apps launch and the screen rotates at speeds that seem right, not too slow, not too fast, just right. And the iPhone OS is simple, clean, and varnished so it’s difficult to get lost under the hood because there is no hood.

I was concerned that looking at my images on the iPad’s glossy screen might not be a great experience (I’m not a fan of glossy screens for everyday computing) but in all honesty, the images look fantastic. Part of it is that they’re backlit as they would be on any computer screen but part of it is the ergonomics of the iPad: holding the image in your hand (like holding the web in your hand as Jobs said) is very different from seeing the same image on a MacBook’s similar glossy screen. It’s a very odd observation but after hours of looking at images on both my wife’s MacBook glossy screen and the similar iPad screen I like the iPad experience better. I can’t explain it.

The iPad’s built in apps for writing, email, calendar, contacts, and more are spectacular. I’m quite sure that these things and maybe even the entire iPhone OS will migrate to an Apple “computer” at some point or, the line between “computer” and “pad” will be blurred even more.

And this leads me to the one thing that I’d like to see as an improvement. I’m a touch typist: I can type quite fast using all of my fingers with eyes on the screen. The iPad on-screen keyboard, while much better than the iPhone’s is still, an iPhone keyboard with awkward shift key sequences and smaller size which makes touch typing difficult. Yes, one can get the keyboard dock or connect any bluetooth keyboard but that’s not what I want because it’s not attached and one can’t prop the combined thing on one’s lap.

What I want is a hybrid of the iPad and the MacBook Air. Call it Apple’s netbook or whatever you like, but I want a full hardware keyboard attached to the iPad with the option of detaching it at any time. I find holding the iPad for any length of time tiresome I don’t particularly like typing with it on my lap or on a table; being able to rest it on its keyboard, like one can a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro would be a nice advantage. And, you’d lose the trackpad of course as you’d have a multi-touch screen.

That’s my only wish so far.

Frankly, I’ve not been able to use the iPad much because the second day it was here my wife Anne got ahold of it and downloaded a book (Eaarth) she has to read for school for next year to try out reading on the iPad. As an avid reader she was skeptical of both Kindle and iPad for serious reading but so far she seems to like it and I may not get it back for a while which is fine by me: ammunition for buying another one.

The fact that my wife could pick the iPad up and in less than a minute buy and download a book and start reading is what the iPad is all about. She’s not an unsophisticated computer user but she’d never used an iPad before. As I said, the device falls into the background more quickly than any other computing device I’ve ever used. It feels like 1984 (birth of the Mac) all over again.

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