Oh no. It’s Sunday night and it’ll be Wednesday in a few minutes.
Marco: Grown-up Computing (July 9, 2005)
Regardless, the last thing I want to do is figure out why some program isn’t working or reinstall my operating system. I see these as zero-gain activities: generally, I learn nothing new, I don’t enjoy myself, I’m not being entertained or enriched, and my effort only results in maintaining the status quo. I can’t avoid some zero-gain activities, such as dusting, but I’d gladly pay for a product that I could spray onto surfaces and make them dust-free forever. (Despite its claims, Endust does not do this.)
In the same way, I’d rather get a computer that didn’t require any maintenance and simply allowed me to do productive work. I’d like to have something to show for all of my clicking and typing instead of simply making information balloons go away. I’d rather write an article for this site than type my serial number again. I’d rather search the internet for interesting or entertaining information to read instead of looking for the solution to an obscure problem for which I only have a useless generic error message. I just want things to work.
Fraser Speirs: Future Shock (January 29, 2010)
What you’re seeing in the industry’s reaction to the iPad is nothing less than future shock.
The tech industry will be in paroxysms of future shock for some time to come. Many will cling to their January-26th notions of what it takes to get “real work” done; cling to the idea that the computer-based part of it is the “real work”.
It’s not. The Real Work is not formatting the margins, installing the printer driver, uploading the document, finishing the PowerPoint slides, running the software update or reinstalling the OS.
The Real Work is teaching the child, healing the patient, selling the house, logging the road defects, fixing the car at the roadside, capturing the table’s order, designing the house and organising the party.
Think of the millions of hours of human effort spent on preventing and recovering from the problems caused by completely open computer systems. Think of the lengths that people have gone to in order to acquire skills that are orthogonal to their core interests and their job, just so they can get their job done.
If the iPad and its successor devices free these people to focus on what they do best, it will dramatically change people’s perceptions of computing from something to fear to something to engage enthusiastically with. I find it hard to believe that the loss of background processing isn’t a price worth paying to have a computer that isn’t frightening anymore.
Something more balanced than the bile that’s being thrown around about how ‘closed’ the iPhone OS ecosystem is. But even if Apple throws in an unlock switch like the Nexus One – will that make things any better? Why don’t you use what Richard Stallman uses then?
Once I watched the iPad keynote, as I mentioned to someone on Facebook, I can really imagine getting the grandparents to use this – and they won’t have to be afraid of it. They’ve been through Windows XP and Office 2000
training ‘skills upgrading’, they’re certified Microsoft Office User Specialists… but they don’t use computers. It’s just too complex. As a result they use Teletext and the phone to get information. If there’s online-only paperwork, they call me and I do it for them. They bring CDs and DVDs of photos around and get me to show them the contents on my computer. They use fax machines and often ask me to bring their older one home so they can fax me.
News, flight information, stock prices all can be gotten online, but it’s just such a hassle. VOIP’s potentially very useful but it’s got the same issues. To get there, they have to contend with all the cabling and bits and pieces of hardware, software updates, strange flashing things about website security and virus infections and lottery winnings notifications, why the pointer suddenly turns to the right in Word… it goes on. Even if I get them a Mac, it’s better, but it’s just not quite there yet.
The iPad? Hopefully it will be what Steve Jobs has envisioned it to do. “The best device for web, email and photos.” It just needs to do those few things, and well.
Chris on Fraser Speirs’ post mentioned above: (comment)
Spot on. 50 years ago you needed a degree in mechanics to own and drive a car. You needed to know all the inner workings just to get it to work. Today, 99.9% of car owners know know the first thing about the inner workings - because they don’t need to. It just works. I’ve driven 150,000 miles in mine and all I’ve done is changed the tyres.
Addendum: Okay, so it won’t fix the fax problem since I don’t see a way to input or output paper from the iPad. Yes, some things can be replaced by the digital equivalent (handwritten messages, various printouts) but the documents which require signatures will still be an issue. Somehow I doubt there’ll be a scanner with an iPod dock connector anytime soon..
Addendum 2: Abstracting away the filesystem in the iPhone OS contributes a lot to simplifying the user experience (I can’t find that file, where should I save this, …). The side-effect that’s somewhat undesirable lies in the formation of ‘data islands’ - it’s difficult to move data between apps that aren’t specifically designed to do that (I’m assuming you can do things like tweet photos or whatever, I don’t have an iPhone). Can I move something from Brushes to a random Twitter client? or a table from Numbers to Mail? An image, or the URL to that image, from Safari to my tumblr dashboard via Safari, or IM client? I suppose this data issue will get solved eventually, as with copy and paste, but for now it’s not the best yet.
There are 11 procedures to get the necessary licenses/permits to build a warehouse, under the OECD average of 15, but it takes nearly 1200 days (3+ years) and about 570% of income per capita from start to end.
The time’s mainly spent trying to obtain a new telephone line from Haiti’s public telephone company, TELECO.