A Geezer’s Short Intro to the iPad

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I like reading on the iPad2. Despite some misgivings but fearful I might be missing something I got Santa to give me one for Christmas.  I’m glad I did. It was not clear to me beforehand just what it would be like, not that easy to research despite all the hype. I’m thinking that a lot of the experience is simply taken for granted by today’s young writers and left unwritten.  So, here’s my initial homage to a marvelous machine that I think is one of the world’s great inventions.  I would categorize its advantages this way:

One, the more obvious, is that you can carry with you in one compact package an enormous information and communication resource. It holds not only books but newspapers and magazines and all of my iPod music. And, significantly, it functions quite well as a back-up computer, including email and address book. It does have the disadvantage of not having a regular keyboard, so input is cramped; you have to hunt-

English: iPad with on display keyboard

Image via Wikipedia

peck with one or two fingers on the virtual keyboard that springs up whenever you tap on a blank that needs filling. I did investigate a separate QWERTY keyboard made for it, but it was so small that I couldn’t use it normally. But you otherwise can do virtually everything with it that you can with a laptop. I have resolved that if we get a tornado warning on our WeatherCall, the iPad is on the short list of what to grab before heading down the street to our son’s safe room. I would be able to access all of our online finance accounts with it if my desktop iMac were gone with the wind!

The second advantage is that it enhances the information experience. In a word, it is fun. It is not only pleasurably techno-geeky but it is a wonderfully creative platform for which all kinds of applications are emerging. One of the first apps I enjoyed was for Time Magazine – some of the charts and illustrations have interactive pop-ups and the photography is more beautiful than on the best paper. Who knew? I just finished down-loading the app for Smithsonian Magazine, newly-out only last month, and it is marvelous, just as intuitive to navigate as Time and with even more interactive features. That capability hit home right at the start with the cover illustration of the Titanic (March, 2012) – the porthole lights on its hull were changing as though it were just sailing by! Then, on the next page was an interactive ad for the latest Toyota Prius with buttons to press to see its features. Needless to say, advertisers are going to embrace this gadget as eagerly as the consumer.

Typical of Apple products its operation is designed to be intuitive. While each app may vary from others I perceive consistency in them so far. In both Time and Smithsonian you swipe horizontally to move from article to article and vertically to page through a given article. I got a little frisson of pleasure in finding that when I mistakenly swipe horizontally instead of vertically, on returning to the previous page my vertical place was saved instead of returning to the beginning of the article as one might expect. This to my mind shows real thought and through testing. It is respect shown to the customer – no wonder Apple has become the world’s no. 1 company.

Is the experience perfect? No. One thing I would like to see is dictionary access while reading periodicals, a function that is present when composing or reading books. But the potential is surely there for that and other functionalities.  Also, at 1.33 pounds the iPad is too heavy to simply hold like a magazine for more than a few minutes.  I found a small, light padded lap desk with an adjustable angle that holds it just right when I use it in my reading lounger.

There are several apps for reading books on the iPad, including one from Kindle that makes everything in my Kindle library available on the iPad, but this time in full pleasurable color, something I suspect might not be important to some others, but I missed that aspect on the Kindle.

Just on a hunch I decided to look up apps for astronomy. In only about 5 minutes after reading reviews of three, I downloaded “The Night Sky”, walked outside, and used the iPad identify a body in the evening sky that I thought might be Mars. It turned out to be Jupiter. Wow. The iPad knows (with permission to use GPS) where it is and which direction is which. The only downside to the app I could make out is that you can not control the identification of specific bodies. It turns out that it preferentially identifies objects at the center of the screen, and it does that rather randomly.  Nevertheless, it is a terrific app. Cost: $0.99! I feel like Yakoff Schmirnoff. Is this a great country or what?

Just as a matter interest, here’s a list of the apps I have added so far:

USA Today
Maps (a world atlas – fabulous)
Free Wi-fi (automatically finds the sites)
Google Earth
Newstand (organizes periodicals)
Wikipanion (a version of Wikipedia – not sure how this works yet)
National Geographic
TED (the famous lectures)
TuneIn Radio (access stations of all kinds at any time you have wi-fi)
ABC News
NBC Nightly News
My mutual fund site
IMDb (the Internet Movie Database – a great source about all movies)
Game Center
Epicurious (food)
Night Sky
And of course, Angry Birds.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
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3 Responses to A Geezer’s Short Intro to the iPad

  1. PiedType says:

    I’ve resisted this little “toy” so far. The grandkids have several in their house and they see a lot of use. Mostly what I’ve been shown, however, is games. I gave my son (at his request) the separate keyboard. It was worth it if only as a gorgeous piece of modern art. It appears you use yours a lot for reading and browsing news. My laptop is always on a TV tray (they don’t call them that anymore, do they) by the sofa, so to date I’ve felt no need for an iPad. My next toy will probably be a smartphone, since I’m seemingly the only person in the world who still doesn’t have one.


  2. I agree, the “fun” factor is a huge draw for the iPad (can’t wait to see what they unleash tomorrow)! If you’re interested in finding some more apps, I have a couple of posts:

    MacWorld’s App Gem Awards

    and (even though it’s for students):

    Best iOS Apps for Students


  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    Jennifer, I am even now reaping the benefits of your list. Thank you, thank you. I just downloaded two that make me ever so happy! They are:

    1. Google Translate – every language you can think of, it does it. And it talks! And it’s free! It works! Amazing.
    2. Merriam-Webster Dictionary HD – I was going for the free edition of this, my long-time favorite dictionary, when I noticed the $3.99 version without ads, which I thought might be a distraction after reading the most critical reviews. Fabulous – just what I thought a dictionary might someday become. Integrated thesaurus. And it pronounces the words out loud! Eat your hearts out, Jetsons! The future is here!


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