The iPad has generated a great deal of discussion throughout the last few days, with people being heavily divided between “It’s exactly what I hoped for!” and “Oh no…it doesn’t multitask or have a camera or walk my dog, it’s ALL WRONG!” Dave Pogue tweeted out a great article that casts the iPad in a whole new light; that it’s the perfect computer for the baby boomer generation.
Ultimi Barbarorum believes it is exactly what a generation that did not grow up computer savvy needs. He points out:
I know many baby boomers who are intimidated by computers. Plenty are not, but a great many spend far too much time wrestling with viruses and drivers, wondering what a DLL is, and generally not knowing the difference between their RAM and a hard disk — all just so they can read emails and check their bank account online. Some boomers have sired offspring who gladly help them with remote tech support sessions, but many others have not, and suffer for it. The reason for all this misery is simple: Computers are still too complex for those not prepared to give them their undivided attention. That’s even the case for Macs.
Not so with the iPhone. I’ve seen that thing understood within minutes by 2 year-olds and 84 year-olds. It does one thing at a time. Your finger is the cursor. There is no need to tap things twice before stuff happens. You are allowed to turn it off with the power button.
It sounds an awful lot like what I described when I reviewed the Dakim Brain Fitness System last summer. Computers are complicated stuff, and wrapping your head around a mouse, with left clicks and right clicks and drag and drops is tough. It’s one thing when you grow up with it, but if you never really get yourself comfortable around the motions it can be torture to use a computer. I’ve written before about this, but teaching my elderly grandmother to use a computer was not easy. She had stacks of step by step instructions on how to check her email, including explaining when to click once and when to click twice. Every single step had to be documented in plain language. “Click the icon” was too complicated, it had to say “click the picture that says AOL.” I also had to write in when she had to wait for splash screens and such, because otherwise she’d panic and start clicking randomly, thinking she missed a step.
If the iPad had existed 10 years ago, I would have had her take the $700 she spent on a Dell with Windows ME and set her up with an iPad. Think about it: You take an iPad with the keyboard dock, and set it up on a desk like a computer. If you’re dealing with someone who has no other internet service, it’s actually easier and more cost effective to set them up with the $30/month pre-pay internet. Now they can get what they want (emails from family, the weather, maybe some quick news) and it’s in the most non-intimidating package possible. If Grandma wants to send an email, she pokes the mail button. There’s very little more tactile and intuitive than “See it, touch it, use it.”
The next time someone asks me what to get an elderly relative if they want to check email, play a few games, and handle very basic computer needs, I’m going to tell them to seriously consider the iPad. The net cost ends up around the same as a computer, the internet plan isn’t onerous, there are a plethora of easy to use games, and the whole package has a far lower learning curve than a basic computer would (and the tech support headache is going to be far lower too!).