Transformational Technology

This is a photo I took of Ethan working on an iPad during his sister, Evie’s, baptism gala and there is much that I could say about the photo or about the event. But I want to talk about difference between adults and children when it comes to iPads.

Give an iPad to a child (or an adult who has never touched a “regular” computer) and they adapt very quickly. It turns out that the fingers of the hand are pretty facile and intuitive tools. Even a caveman would probably agree with that.

But give an iPad to an adult with years of normal computer use and they will say, “Can I plug in a mouse?” or “How do I hook up a keyboard?” Quite honestly, keyboards and mice aren’t the least bit “natural” or intuitive. In fact, the QWERTY keyboard layout was invented in the 1878 and designed in such a way that keys wouldn’t jam together if a person typed too quickly.

Keyboards, mice, desktops and folders were integrated into desktop computers because computer engineers wanted to make the transition from a traditional office to an office centered on computer workstations less threatening. Microsoft even threw in Paper Clip Man in MS Word to give a human face to the New Machine.

The iPad, and other tools like it, are changing all of that. In fact, I’ve read that Jobs wouldn’t allow USB ports in iPads because he didn’t want it to be driven by peripherals. He wanted to push “touch” and the human hand as the most logical peripherals. Beyond that, you don’t have to worry about saving documents. Computer folders are very 20th century.

I think the iPad is the prototype for the next generation of computers – no mice, no hard drives, no DVD drives, no folders and no desktop. And certainly no Paper Clip Man. A keyboard? No doubt there will be one for people like me, who at least in this way, are stuck in the 19th century.

But now that I think of it, Apple has given us another glimpse of the future of computer input: Siri, which is voice recognition with a friendly attitude. But beyond that, it is intelligent voice recognition – Siri gets to know us and knows what we mean even when we don’t say it. Wow!

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