The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write. I wouldn’t have been able to fire up ResEdit and edit out the Mac startup sound so I could tinker on the computer at all hours without waking my parents. The iPad may be a boon to traditional eduction, insofar as it allows for multimedia textbooks and such, but in its current form, it’s a detriment to the sort of hacker culture that has propelled the digital economy.
I’m a fairly young person, yet I realize these sentiments are shared in every generation. “My kids won’t have the same great experiences I had because of this new technology. They won’t know the joy of riding a horse on the open range because of this newfangled mechanical carriage!”
Your kids are going to have the wonderful experience of opening up an interactive textbook on their iPad and learning about how their cells work. Or tapping on a circuit design simulation application and dragging components into a circuit to create a ripple adder. Or posting to their virtual reality homebase that because of the new GenomeEditor 3000 (with presets!!), their kids aren’t going to have the fun of tinkering with their genome. So the “think of the children!” argument isn’t going to sway me. You can leave those up to Fox News.
The new paradigm of a simplified, consumer electronics computing experience isn’t going to catch on overnight. Look on the bright side though. By the time the only computers left are the ones abstracted away enough to where you can’t edit the startup sound, we’ll be retired or, fingers crossed, dead.