Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Trouble With Tablets

Now, I have nothing against tablet PCs per se. In fact, if my budget were (considerably) bigger than it actually is, I could see several ways in which I'd quite happily use one. I object only to the fact that they cost as much as a proper computer but are less capable than a proper computer; the irritating touchscreen interface, which is never quite compatible with my hands, makes them unusable for more than video watching and maybe some casual browsing; typing on a touchscreen for anything more than a search query is impossible.

And yet, I'm filled with a sense of foreboding.

My grandfather was a lawyer; he worked with many clients including some who were quite high-profile for the time. He was actively practicing law until the day he died; he actually died at his office. And yet, he only barely learned to type. He could manage, sure. Difficultly. Awkwardly. With two fingers. The reason he found it so difficult to type was because when he was growing up and starting his career, the personal computer hadn't been invented yet. At that time, typing (on typewriters) was something that secretaries did for you; unless you were planning to become a secretary, you didn't need to learn how to type. And so, he never learned. Once the advent of the PC brought on the expectation that everyone be able to type, he was past the point at which learning new basic skills comes naturally.

I have the unpleasant feeling that typing on a touchscreen will be to my generation what typing was to his.

Tablet sales are exploding and even cannibalising the sales of netbooks, which tend to be cheaper and more capable. The major desktop operating systems are becoming increasingly tablet-like; Windows 8 will sport a touchscreen-friendly interface, with the conventional desktop hidden behind a preference box, Mac OS has become more like iOS with every release, and desktop Linux is still stagnant while its mobile counterpart (including Android) now runs on at least a plurality of mobile devices. It's clear that Microsoft and Apple are increasingly treating a proper computer as an accessory that needs to be compatible with your tablet rather than the other way around. As much as I hope tablets are a passing fad, every day there are more indications that they're here to stay.

And while keyboard accessories for tablets exist, they're awkward and defeat the purpose of a tablet— that it's extremely portable. No; tablets mean touchscreens.

And I saw an employee at an Apple store typing quite deftly on an iPad. Obviously, as an employee, he is required to make Apple's products look easy to use and I have no idea how much training was required before he could obtain that level of proficiency, or how long he could type like that, or to what extent he was selected for the position specifically because his hands were identical in size and proportion to those of the late Steve Jobs. But he could type on an iPad. Typing on an iPad is a thing that can be done.

And if I hold out against the tablet monstrosity until social necessity forces me to cave, it'll be too late for me to learn another basic skill easily. I'll end up like my grandfather; able to type awkwardly, with difficulty, because typing (as it's understood in that distant future day) just wasn't a skill you needed to learn when I was growing up and starting my career.

Unless you were planning to become an Apple store employee.

Vital stats:

Interface: Psychic
Date: 5 April 2012
Current Mood: Foreboding
Sleep Status: Hopeful
Word of the Day: Commune
Name: Host
Registration Identity: host
Species: Not Applicable
Realm: Vault
Casting Method: Daman
Casting Power: Environmental
Location: Omnipresent
Time: 5 Months, 1 Day since blog-start.
Casting: Local Transept 80401, Registry 229

Thank you and goodbye.

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