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ATPM 16.06
June 2010





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Segments: Slices from the Macintosh Life

by Frank H. Wu,

To iPad or Not to iPad?

The other day, I was roasted when I left a long-time volunteer role. My colleagues had had an artist prepare a caricature of me, with that perspective that makes one’s head enormous on top of a foreshortened body, showing me holding my laptop computer. In their remarks for the evening, they joked about how I was never without the MacBook in front of me, paying enough attention I’d send notes from the discussion as it was proceeding. While my friends were accepting, perhaps they should not have been so tolerant.

Psychologists inform us that our communications are about everything else beyond what we actually say explicitly: eye contact, facial gestures, body language, and other cues so subtle that we ourselves may not be aware of what we are signaling. I try to remember that every time I am tempted, as I often am, to multitask during a meeting. We may live in an era of new social norms. Children are becoming more accustomed to digital interactions that live ones. But a leader must have gravitas. The person who is in charge is not the person taking notes. Even if you are using a device for a good reason, such as checking up on information related to the matters under consideration, you are being rude to everyone else around you. Paper and pen are acceptable, but their digital counterparts are not—at this point, anyway.

The iPad prompts such reflections. It is so portable, with the capability for turning on instantly, terrific battery life, and a virtual keyboard that actually works, that the urge is overwhelming. Paired with a Bluetooth keyboard, the generic Apple model rather than the iPad version, it is possible to be discreet—at least much more so than with a full-size laptop on the desk. You can have the iPad in your lap or horizontal in front of you. With the full complement of apps and a little advance preparation to load up what you need (e.g., documents to edit), you can rely on the iPad by itself. Best of all for purposes of remaining on good terms with your peers, you can look at them and they can see you. It’s even better than an iPhone, because you don’t have to glance down at the device.

Nonetheless, I am uncertain about whether to embrace the iPad and everything it stands for. It is still such a novelty. When you are out and about, strangers ask how it is and whether you like it. My standard response, especially if my wife is accompanying me, has been, “It’s better than human interaction.”

Of course, as good a line as that might be, it isn’t so. I was at church recently, and I saw a man in the pew in front of me playing with his iPhone during the service. He wasn’t even doing anything worthwhile; he was merely playing a game. Although I may be willing to sneak a glance at e-mail in many contexts, even I wouldn’t dare, regardless of whether anyone were watching, do that while people were praying. There isn’t any point to being someplace if you aren’t really there. Like standing up straight, resisting the lure of shiny devices builds character.

Thus, ironically, even as I have received an iPad and decided it is indispensable, I also have realized that I must have the discipline to leave it alone.

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Reader Comments (2)

Grover Watson · June 4, 2010 - 11:40 EST #1
I had not even thought to mate my iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard until I read your article. What a novel idea! It will sure make my next vacation more interesting. I'm still looking for new ways to interact with it.
Grover Watson · June 12, 2010 - 00:17 EST #2
A follow up comment to add to my first. I got my very first Apple Bluetooth Keyboard yesterday. After a few minutes, I was able to mate it to my iPad. too cool! I'm getting the bug to travel badly now! :)

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