I keep getting asked when I’m getting an iPad. I’m not. Part of the reason is covered in a lovely post by Cory Doctorow on Boingboing: “Why I won’t buy an iPad (and think you shouldn’t, either)”
“I believe — really believe — in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can’t open it, you don’t own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+."
As it happens, my parents bought me a video Genie (a TRS-80 clone) as my first computer, but that included schematics too. It wasn't long before I was designing and building my own software and peripherals, and even making a bit of a living from some of them. Computing wasn't a passive experience, it was an active, engaging, creative one. I don't see my kids doing that as much today. Sure, they play with Scratch, but it really doesn't feel like the same thing. It has something about it of the cut and paste mentality that has become so prevalent these days [boy I'm sounding like a grumpy old man - did I mention I've noticed I have more grey hair recently?].
To me the iPad is “Infantalizing hardware” as Cory puts it. In fact, around the same time I read “The Real iPad Review”, which gives a 3 year old’s view of the iPad (via the child’s dad - Adam Kmiec ). It says this:
“Is the iPad a killer device? Is it a game changing device? Will you love it? The simple answer is YES…so long as you have the mindset of a 3 year old. Harsh? Yes. But, it’s the truth.”
Yes, that is harsh. I mean no disrespect to the dear friends who have rushed out and bought one, but it is slightly distressing watching them going jab-jab-point-shiny-shiny. Adam also points out the hardware short comings that kill the iPad for me:
“No USB, no camera, no replaceable battery, no ability to create content and heck no cleaning cloth. I could deal with all of these shortcomings and flaws if the price was something like $349.99 (in line with iPod Touch), but not at $499.99 (minimum). At $349.99 it would be a nice affordable stretch and step up from an iPod and complimentary to a laptop. But, at $499.99 I just don’t see how a current iPhone or MacBook user will find value in a device that does less than both of those devices.”
The lack of cleaning cloth is definitely a killer. What where Apple thinking?!? More seriously, the other features are a big issue… You see, my Windows Tablet PC has all of these features, and more, and it cost me a fraction of that price. Does it have the app store? No. Can I play angry birds with a multi-touch interface? No. Can I write my own apps on it (in a multitude of development environments)? Yes. Can I create my own rich content with it? Yes. Of course some have converted the iPad into a maker’s device, but there are other cheaper iPad alternatives out there. By the end of the summer there will be a veritable ocean of touch-screen web tablets.
I love Maker things. I love Dan’s Internet catapult. I love the devices people make with Arduino kits. I love the creative ideas of the kids at Teentech. I’m not a fan of things that make us passive consumers of information. I like creating things and planning things with people. Not everyone agreed with Cory, of course, and I’m coming from a slightly different angle. I don’t think we all need to be coders and soldering-iron-wielding-pcb-making geeks, but I do hope we can be a generation that doesn’t just consume, but that engages and creates!