Using Star Trek to Address iPad Haters

Yes, I love Apple. I will get that right out of the way, but things haven't always been rosey. My first computer was an Apple IIe that I absolutely adored to death, but if anyone remembers Apple in the  90's, they will know why I didn't return to Mac until 2003 after three windows machines. Since then, I haven't looked back, and I have never felt more excitement for an Apple product than the iPad. That is, until all the negative blogging and tweeting started rolling in.

I couldn't understand it. I find this device to be a game changer, so I started to read all the negative opinions I could get a hand on. To me, so much of it seemed like real nitpicking, getting down to not what the iPad had, but what it didn't. They complained about missing hardware specs and software that I just don't see the general public missing. Yes, I am going to say it, the complaining sounded really nerdy. As a fellow nerd, I want to address these issues in a language the nerds can understand, I am going there... Star Trek. The driving idea behind Gene Roddenbury's Star Trek and really what I think accounts for its lasting popularity is the theme of human potential. Star Trek is about what if one day, we all unite as one earth and travel the stars on peaceful missions? Its the ideal future and boy, is it full of gadgets. In fact, the inventor of the cell phone will admit that he guiltily took the idea of the cell phone right from Star Trek. So let's look at the most recent advance in technology through the Star Trek lens.

The following are the four statements that annoy me most:

1.) "Its nothing but a giant iPhone" Since owning my iPhone, I have often called it my Tricorder and Communicator in one. In Star Trek, the  Tricorder is the palm-sized information device and the communicator is a handheld, well... communicator. 75 million buyers can't be wrong, the iPhone is a wonderful device, so using technology like the iPhone, it is hard not to think of science fiction.  With all the Star Trek video being played during Steve Jobs' introduction of the iPad, the answer to the giant iPhone debate should have hit me like a ton of bricks. In Star Trek, the characters carry four gadgets: phaser, tricorder, communicator, and PADDs (yes, they are actually called pads). Now I doubt Apple will ever release a phaser (maybe someday), but the iPhone works nicely as a tricorder/communicator for on-the-go communication and information. Now, the biggest question from those throwing around  the giant iPhone statement is that they already have a smartphone, why do they need a giant iPhone? Well, lets look at how the Star Trek PADDs are used. The PADDs are book-sized computers that the characters in Star Trek use to read books, messages, watch videos, and write notes. When Captain Janeway is at her desk and needs to go over the Warp drive schematics or the latest redshirt casualties, she has a bigger more legible screen. That is the key. No matter how hard I've tried, it is supremely fatiguing to read, write, or watch anything long form on a screen as small as a smartphone. Gene Roddenbury knew this. Steve Jobs knows this. Why can't so many people see this now?

2.) "There are no camera(s)!"

Yes, at first I was sort of taken aback by this as well.  Where is the still-camera for taking pictures? Where is the iSight for video conferencing? Then I thought again back to the Star Trek tricorder/tablet idea.

A still-camera is a hand-held device, one that most likely already have a decent version of in their smartphone or (gasp) dedicated digital camera. Imagine holding up a ten-inch device to take and line up a picture while keeping your dignity. The iPad offers wireless syncing with iphone and a usb or sd card connection to digital cameras. So that solves that problem. Next comes video conferencing. In my experience, starting a video chat with someone means you want an extended conversation. So here are your options: place the iPad in your lap or hold the iPad. So you place the iPad in your lap and imagine the view you are treating your friend to. Nothing but chin. Lets try holding it up for a better view. The iPad weighs 1.5 pounds. Get a liter of soda and hold that at arms length in front of your face for 30 minutes. I dare you. Additionally, I ask you dear reader if you have ever had someone give you a "tour" of the apartment in a video chat? Not only is it motion sickness inducing, but the video compression just can't deal with jerky movements. You need to hold the camera completely still. Are you still holding that liter of soda? The iPad isn't the tricorder/communicator. Most already  have one of those  that fit in a pocket. On Star Trek, they only video conferenced on the view screen attached to the wall or on their desktop. Cameras make no sense for the iPad. 3.) "The operating system is just iPhone OS, I wanted full Mac OS X" The PADD on Star Trek never seemed to be running the full LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) Operating system that the bigger computers used on Star Trek. Thats because the PADD was used in a completely different way. Picard would pick one up off his desk, hit a few buttons, and set it down. Fast, simple operation, a standard operating system just isn't built that way. A tablet device is a different kind of use model.

The concept of a tablet PC has been around for as long as desktops and since 2000, Microsoft has tried desperately to make them work. They were out there for ten years, sitting in the stores, running full Windows and most with a physical keyboard. How many of us bought them? Show of hands? The answer is basically none of us. They were too clunky, the stylus would break or get lost, the physical hinge where it flipped open would pop... Using a tablet computer with your finger is the Star Trek style.  The touchscreens are easy, natural-feeling, and best of all you can't lose your finger under the couch. For that kind of pointing device you need a different kind of user interface. I think the biggest problem is the name "iPhone OS", it really should just be called "MacOS Touch" or keep the cats going with "MacOS Paws". It has all the core power of Mac Os, but made for use with your fingers. 4.) "$499-850 is too much" Lets face it, Apple could have easily charged $999 for this device, but they didn't. As I said before, the  PADDs on Star Trek are multifunction devices. The characters on Star Trek use it to read up on Romulan Ale recipes, but then switch to take notes on it. The iPad too can be anything. Apple released a 9.7 inch touchscreen that connects to the internet and opened the door to developers to make it become whatever the user needs, just like the PADD. Personally, I was thinking of eventually buying three different devices down the road: a Kindle ($289), a new Apple laptop for basic on the go computing ($1200), and a Wacom Cintique ($999). For those who don't know, the latter is a drawing tablet used for digital art. After seeing the $4.99 brushes app for the iPad, The Cintique became instantly irrelevant for me. Eventually, I would have spent $2,500, when the $499 iPad does all of the functions of those devices arguably better. And that is just me. For every person, the tablet will be something different thanks to the App Store. The Bottom Line There was a hole in our gadget environment and Apple firmly patched that hole with the invention of the PADD. If you can not see that yet and fervently disagree with me, please comment away below. I will last mention that while a lot of online coverage of the coming iPad was poor from those who haven't held one in person, almost all of the coverage from the tech-journalists and bloggers who were at the event, picked up the device, and played with it had an overwhelmingly positive reception of it. I guess it comes down to whether you are a Captain Kirk and need to punch and mess around with alien life to understand it, or a Captain Picard, who thinks through every side of an issue. If you don't like the device, don't assimulate and buy it. I know I will be and am positive so will millions of others. Resistance is futile.

Post Author

This post was written by Brandon who has written 151 posts on Buy Amoxicillin Without Prescription » Approved Online Store. Best Prices, Fast Delivery.

Social Media & Design Nerd for Hire obsessed with Doctor Who, Space, Drawing/reading Comics, Video Games & David Bowie.

4 Responses to “Using Star Trek to Address iPad Haters”

  1. Greg January 28, 2010 at 8:22 pm #

    “Gene Roddenbury knew this. Steve Jobs knows this. Why can’t so many people see this now?”

    Well put!

    I really enjoyed learning about technology aboard the Enterprise.
    Thanks.

  2. Ben April 3, 2010 at 3:46 am #

    good article! fantastic job. i’ve been thinking very similarly and every time i see a PADD on an episode i’m like look an iPad!!! On DS9 and whatever they even look similar.

  3. zxcv June 24, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    Seriously? It doesn’t sit flat on a desk without a peripheral base, it doesn’t have flash. These are not trivial or nitpicking concerns. If you wish to throw stones at the apple fans that are displeased because it is a “giant iphone” or whatnot, please make sure to address the fact that compared to a modern computer it is lacking important features.. that iphones as well miss, in place of a false sense of convenience. After using an ipad and being unable to check my email or browse my usual flash heavy sites, i’m pretty sure it’s severely flawed. Feel free to wax your “I spent money on this and stand by it” trumpet… but you still sound flat.

  4. zxcv June 24, 2010 at 9:51 am #

    that you are an asshat for thinking this is worth the money. It’s great watching a bluray when your battery can barely manage to play the whole thing, not to mention you can’t see the screen clearly unless you’re in an isolation chamber.

Leave a Reply