You people have lost your minds over the iPad: “Your grandma will embrace it. Your aunt will embrace. Your cousins. Your kids. Everyone who doesn’t have a fucking clue about computers and don’t want to learn and don’t care. Everyone will jump into this new era of computing. Everyone.” I can happily admit it is gorgeous. And yet. We are gaga for a thing with an application that delivers a New York Times front page that only displays four whole stories? A thing that’s just like reading a book, a book with DRM encoding, so you don’t actually own it, and also book that weighs 1.5 pounds. (The average “actual” book weighs 12 ounces.) A thing that’s just like reading a magazine, so you can get Time magazine for $4.99, which is about 14 times the cost of a delivery subscription to the paper magazine. But those are all just quibbles, probably personal preferences. A real problem (apart from the “palpable contempt for the owner,” manifested in many ways) is that the iPad is a device that’s okay for consuming text, at least, but is designed to encourage you not to create at all.
My real objection to this development is that Apple has created a computing device that, for the first time in the brief history of computing devices, has as a design concept the need to actively resist the urges of people to make things.
The lack of a camera is a giant step backwards, for one thing: what people do now is document their lives and create images. This machine is for passive image-consumers.
Computers, you will recall, began their lives as machines for accomplishing tasks. (Calculating pi! Running spreadsheets!) Later, they became machines to assist in creative tasks as well. (Writing books, just like Carrie Bradshaw!) And now we have a computer-the future of computing, according to fan boys-that so significantly devalues the importance of creating text that it renders the entire device useless as anything but a consumption device.
This is not actually a computer! (Or: “iPad is more about experiencing media, and light sharing, than heavy-duty media production,” as our pal Xeni put it.) Light sharing! This is a viewscreen, and I keep coming back to the future of humanity a la Wall-E: it’s non-computing entertainment devices being touted as the future of computing in this manner that really worries me. Because what if they are the future? I mean, however will one type a little 402-word blog post in the future? One won’t.