My iPad arrived the day before yesterday, making a UPS journey from mainland China to Hong Kong, to Alaska, Tennessee, and Ontario, where it was loaded onto a truck and driven to my door. Free shipping. Some day I must check out the itinerary of bananas from the plantation to my cereal bowl.
The problem is, there are no fresh words left to describe it. Awesome? Too 80’s. Brilliant? Too 90’s. Mind boggling? Too clichéd. Supercalifragilistic? Even the short form is too difficult to spell. The word that works best for me is the humble personal.
The term personal computer, in use since IBM launched the PC in 1982, may have at last found an exemplar in the iPad. When I hold it in my hands or on my lap, whether I’m reading an ebook or checking email, I feel it’s somehow part of me, like the clothes I wear or my hair style. Most computers, even netbooks, have a formality about them. Smartphones and iPods, no matter how cool or useful, feel like gadgets. Computers and gadgets. The iPad feels like neither.
Slightly more aloof than a dog, more friendly than a cat, cuter than a guinea pig, the iPad insinuates itself into your life before you’ve owned it 48 hours. I’ve never met another technology I’ve merged with so seamlessly. Even a new bicycle takes a week or so to become an extension of your legs and balance.
Let’s say the iPad was launched approximately five months ago and that Apple is selling, by most estimates, a million units a month. That would make me about the five millionth iPad owner. No wonder it’s hard to find anything fresh to say.
I already have some favourite apps. GoodReader is a better PDF reader than I have on my Macbook. The Kindle App allows me to move easily between my iPad and Kindle, on the same book. Elements gives me a text editor that syncs files with Dropbox. It includes a word-count function and a scratch pad for recording extraneous thoughts and ideas. The built-in Mail program is excellent. The Video program would rate an excellent if it supported AVI video files. With MP4’s it’s a great viewer. Safari is Safari. Relatively solid but unable to display the contents of certain sites.
Perhaps my most unusual app, to date, is a story. More than an ebook, even an enhanced ebook, it’s a multimedia presentation called Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross, created by British Columbia company Moving Titles. A modern fairy tale, delightfully written, narrated, and animated. It’s a showcase app for where computing might be headed.
Forty-Eight hours and I’m nearly purring. It’s that good.