New iPad: 50-year Science Fiction Dream Becomes Reality…

Dreaming that one day I’d have an iPad… Pendeen Road Primary School, Glasgow, 1959. (I’m on the left, second row from the back, in front of our teacher, Miss MacDougal.

Progress has a way of creeping up on you. Small, incremental changes happen one after another, and you don’t even notice them. It’s a bit like climbing a mountain. You’re on a path, focused on putting one foot in front of another and not really paying attention to the changing landscape. Then you stop and look back – and you’re amazed at just how far you’ve come.

When I was a wee boy in Glasgow in the 1950s, I had a crazy dream, inspired by the science fiction I devoured. One day I’d have a device that would let me carry every book in the world on it. All the music I loved. I’d be able to view photos and watch movies on it – even make my own. It would have a great screen, that was even better than paper to read on. And I’d be able to use it to make TV calls (we didn’t have video then!) to anyone in the world.

My Universal Communicator wouldn’t expect me to type. I’d just speak to it, and it would understand.

I’ve been at or near the leading edge of progress most of my life. I got into computers in the early 1980s, when I was a newspaperman in Glasgow, because I could see they were about to change the publishing industry forever. I got a Macintosh six weeks after they shipped in the USA. I was desktop publishing by the end of 1984, created my first electronic book in 1985. I was on the Internet in 1992 or 93 (first version of the Mosaic Browser from NCSA). By 1998, I was running a 204ppi desktop display (it retailed at $13,000!)

One foot in front of the other…

On March 16, I stopped and looked up. My new iPad arrived.

One of the features Apple seems to have almost sneaked into the new iPad is dictation. It’s amazingly accurate – even with my Scottish accent. Yes, I saw the YouTube video of the two Scots guys in the voice-operated elevator. Yes, I did say “Eleven”. And the iPad came right back with 11 🙂

I won’t go on about the screen again. Anyone who’s seen it and used it knows it’s superb. 264ppi is enough to set the standard for the next 10-20 years. Hard to believe Apple manufactured this device for the price, and still makes great margins on it.

One reviewer hit the nail on the head the other day. He said that Apple has made the iPad so easy to use, with so little interface clutter, that it’s just a sheet of glass which becomes your portal to the world.

I can’t see any Android or Windows tablet being able to compete. Sure, geeks might wax enthusiastic. They might even have some features which are better on paper than the iPad equivalent, checked off on a Feature List by some Program Manager, somewhere.

But, in the words of the Incredible String Band; “You know all the words, and you sung all the notes, but you never quite learned the song”.

The new iPad sings. It’s the Universal Communicator I dreamed of, more than 50 years ago – the computer for the rest of us, because it’s no longer a computer.

I’m still dreaming, of course. About the Professional Media iPad. A screen with the same resolution, but at least four times as big. Touch-driven professional photography, video and sound editing and production. With a file system that lets you easily access big media archives on hard disk.

I just bought a GoFlex Satellite wireless hard drive for my iPad. 500 Gb, and the battery will power it for five hours. I wish it was at least twice the size, since we have 750Gb of photos, plus video. It does a great job of wirelessly streaming video to the iPad. Nice if there was an easy way to import photos for iPad editing, now that iPad apps like Photoforge 2 will handle the full professional resolution of 21+ megapixels our Canon cameras crank out. I can import new photos direct from the camera, but can’t find an easy and convenient way to get at our massive archive. If you’ve solved this, please let me know.

But these things will come, now we have a high-resolution, easy-to-use, mainstream device. I dreamed of the future, and it’s here.

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