Brain: Stop Trying To Kill Me-Or What Your Reactions To the iPad Might Be Trying To Tell You

I think too much sometimes.  Part of what keeps me going each day is a quasi-obsessive need to analyze, dissect and understand everything I come across.  These are tendencies that have made me a reasonably successful person, but occasionally, they can get in the way.

Long ago, my wife learned the futility of taking me out to see a play, and dreads the prospect of seeing live music with me; she knows that the analytical part of my brain is going to get in the way of a fun evening.

Her: “Man, that guitar player is really on tonight”

Me: “Mmm, sure.  Boy that 8kHz in the PA is really annoying…”

Her: “Wow, the drummer and bassist are really tight!”

Me: “I bet they could fix the LF power alley here by adding a bit of delay to create a gradient array.  I wonder what kind of DSP they have?”

And so on.  Fellow audio geeks understand this; they know the self discipline that is required to “turn off” and just enjoy the experience.  This is something we all must do, for the sake of those around us, if not for ourselves.  It’s far too easy to begin to obsess over small things that nobody but you notices, and lose the joy of the moment.

So, what does one take away from this (other than the fact that I’m no fun at parties)?

The recent announcement of  the iPad initially had me scratching my head, thinking about what an anti-climatic keynote Mr. Jobs had delivered.  My brain immediately went to my previous experiences with tablet PCs, how I worked and what I needed in a computer, and how utterly limiting this device really was.  Judging by the fury with which the blogosphere is descending upon Apple, I was obviously not alone.

“OK-so it’s a big iPod Touch.  Yeah, the new iWork is pretty neat.  The interface is really good, I’ll give them that.  But, it’s just so limited, and restricted, and locked down and simple.”

And it was that last word-“simple”- that lit the proverbial light bulb, and I began to get it.

The short answer was that this was not a product that was intended for me.

I’m a guy who travels with two laptops, a cell phone, two iPods and various other electronic “necessities”.  When the TSA opens my bag, it looks like Fry’s Electronics threw up on their table.  I’ve got networks, and gadgets and gizmos at home, all tweaked within an inch of their lives and talking to each other in bizarrely complex ways.  To me, this is, and always has been, perfectly normal.  With every computer I have ever bought, the first order of business has always been to tweak, hack and modify the device so it works the way I want and need it to.

System Preferences-POW!  Device Manager-ZAP!  Regedit-ZOWIE!

What that proverbial light bulb I mentioned earlier was telling was that maybe there are people out there who don’t enjoy doing that.  Maybe there are people who DON’T consider that normal.  Maybe there are people who have been missing out on a lot of things because they are unable or afraid to dig into their systems just to make them usable.

My grandmother has never received an e-mail.  Never looked at all the family photos we have online.  Never been able to experience what the WWW has to offer, because she has never owned a computer-they are too complicated.  My grandfather worked as an engineer for AT&T for 50 years, but never bought a computer.

For those of you who are tasked with being the on-call tech support for your friends and family, try to look at it from that perspective.  When you get that call about something not working-from somebody who uses their computer for nothing other than web, e-mail and video, do all of those tweaks and customizations and points of failure in a normal computer look so attractive?

The moral of the story is, what a geek like me considers to be sins of omission in a device like this are precisely what could open up computing to a whole new market, enriching lives and nicely lining Apple’s pocket in the process.

I’ve mentioned that analogy to other people, and I’ve gotten responses ranging from “great, it’s an old person’s laptop” to “I’ll wait until somebody hacks it so I can run Linux”.  OK, great, have fun.  But I don’t think they get what Apple was going for.  It’s not about just the hardware or just the software-it’s the complete package.  My personal opinion is that if you need to tweak, hack and modify this to be right for you, then it’s not right for you in the first place-and that’s OK.

And that’s also the point of the iPad.

Sometimes you need to turn off the analytical side and jut sit back and enjoy the experience for what it is.

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~ by ewetzell on February 1, 2010.

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