Friday, April 09, 2010

Why the iPad so terrifies Curmudgeon

(Image grabbed from Thermal, though Chris and I had
both seen this elsewhere previously.)

The iPad went on sale last weekend in Chicago and TV news crews were out to show the Apple fans lusting after this new technology. I started trembling uncontrollably while watching, shaking and shivering. Allow me to explain why.

My ever-dwindling cadre of regular readers think of me as a hardcore Luddite, a technophobe, a quill-pen sort of man, set down uncomfortably in the age of mouse and keyboard.

But it was not ever thus.

In younger years I was no better than the drooling hordes camped in front of the Apple stores last weekend: I didn't just allow myself to be seduced by new technology, I actively courted it, embraced it, threw myself at it.

The device that cured me of this techno-fever is all too similar, at least in concept, to the iPad now let loose among us.

I refer to my first notebook computer, a machine purchased some 15 years ago. Ah! you say -- the notebook is entirely different in concept from the iPad.

But not this one.

This one had the CPU behind the screen and a detachable keyboard. Because the keyboard was only to be a supplemental mode of data entry. This machine came with a pen. It was a tablet. One was supposed to write on it.

The operating system was Microsoft Windows for Pen Computing 1.0. I'll repeat that, lest you think I've made a typo: Yes, I bought a Microsoft operating system version 1.0. As in 1-point-OMG, are you out of your freepin' mind?

And, yes, I was. I was in lust.

I should have realized this would all end badly when, with trembling fingers, I unwrapped the machine and tried to initialize it. In those days, machines were sold with quite a bit of software already semi-installed: The machine had to be initialized and the software unbundled.

The bundle got tangled somewhere along the way. The machine would not initialize. Hours of frustration ensued -- but, finally, I gave up and headed back to the store. I swapped my defective beauty for another just like it.

(How much just like it, I did not then know. But I would find out. This is called foreshadowing....)

I was no longer in lust, exactly, but I was still in love. I desperately wanted things to work out between us -- but the machine hung in almost the exact same spot in the unbundling process. The air in our den became blue with my cursing and Long Suffering Spouse quickly sent the children on errands as far away from their lunatic father as possible.

I couldn't bring myself to take the machine back to the store. I was afraid I might kill someone.

Long Suffering Spouse had to take it back the next day.

She kept the kids far away this time as I tried to boot up the latest replacement. I was no longer in love. But I wanted, really, to like this new technology. I saw myself taking notes on it during depositions, converting the notes to text and editing the text with the keyboard, ready to send on to the client, thereby dramatically shortening one of my least favorite tasks -- summarizing depositions. I had hopes. I had dreams.

But first, I had to "train" the system to recognize my handwriting.

The system had a different idea.

The system thought it should "train" me. (This was a Bill Gates product, after all.)

I would write a test phrase and it would tell me how I was supposed to write it in order to make it work properly.

We went round and round like this for some time before my dream was completely crushed and all my hopes died. I used the machine for awhile as a standard notebook, but the stand that had to hold up the heavy screen/CPU cracked and broke under the strain.

Some years later I found that Oldest Son was using the carcass of this once-lusted-after piece of hardware to keep a pile of comic books flat.

And I'd moved on, too. I was cured -- permanently -- of my early-adapting ways. I was hardened by the experience, and maybe just a little embittered. (Does it show?) And then this iPad business comes along... and these old memories come unbidden to the fore...


Dave said...

I had a friend that got one of those things. He was a techie before techie was cool.

Steve Skinner said...

In my career as a forester we purchased one of the early data recorders; in the middle 1980s they were stripped down computers that could be taken to the field. The thing cost a small fortune and didn't work well but it made an outstanding door stop!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

apple is different. it just works. period. the end. i switched a while back and would never go back. never. i see sarge with his virus protection (apple does not need that) and all kinds of crap he has to do and all i have to do is turn it on and go. (smile)

and thanks for your support re: chuck. no change yet.

smiles, bee

Ellee Seymour said...

I'm impressed. We have to wait another couple of weeks before they are available here. I am hanging on for the new iPhone which is being released soon.