Saturday, November 16, 2013

Toy or Tool?

I finally broke down and bought an iPad. I wrestled with the decision for quite a while, because the reality is that I don't really need an iPad or any other kind of electronic toy. My husband and I have laptops and phones and kindles. My daughter doesn't technically own any electronics and I don't really want her to, because I want to control and monitor her screen time for as long as I can. It's easier to do when all the electronics belong to a grown-up and she has to ask to use it. In reality, though, she is the major user of the kindle when we are traveling. We let her have unlimited screen time when we are on an airplane because it makes the trip much more pleasant for ourselves and for everyone else on the plane. Still, I certainly can't argue that I needed an iPad. I'm fundamentally cheap, and I hate spending a lot of money on something I don't need.

I wanted one, though. I've wanted one since they came out about four years ago. They just seem like magic to me. When I was little I remember watching a cartoon called Inspector Gadget. The TV show was about a bumbling bionic detective with extendable arms and legs with a variety of gadget attachments, which would invariable malfunction in humorous ways. He made no progress whatsoever on his own cases, but fortunately he had a very intelligent dog, Brain, and a niece, Penny, with a computer book. The computer book was an amazing little device that looked like an ordinary book but which could speak, display maps, and answer questions. It fit in Penny's backpack and she carried it everywhere with her. Thanks to the computer book Penny always knew where her uncle was and what was going on. She would then send Brain to go help out Inspector Gadget and solve the case. I loved that computer book in the show. I would get bored and frustrated by the inept Inspector Gadget but I was all attention and wide eyes when the computer book came out. I really, really wanted one. Now, with the iPad, it feels like I have one.

I do plan to use the iPad for writing purposes. I don't love writing things out longhand, particularly since I would just have to retype them later. Also my thoughts seem to flow better when I am using a keyboard. My laptop is great but it is very heavy when we travel and too bulky to take to work. With a Logitech keyboard folio my iPad transforms into a very small, very lightweight laptop for a much lower price than a MacBook Air, which is the other product I had considered. My goal is to use the iPad as a functional tool that allows me to write on the go, taking better advantage of spare minutes that accumulate here and there.

Which is not to say that it isn't also a toy. I've put several apps on it already for my daughter, although I am determined to maintain my position as the owner of the iPad. But "do X and you can have 10 minutes of iPad time" is too attractive a bribe to pass up. I also found the app "Color Zen" for myself, which is a puzzle game that is incredibly absorbing as well as oddly calming. And of course I had to download the Kindle app, so that I could access my library on the lovely large screen of the iPad instead of my tiny phone screen and spare my eyes some strain. I am sure that over time I will accumulate more games and entertainment. That's okay. As long as I can keep on writing I will feel like it is a worthwhile tool.