A friend of mine sent me a link today, to a post from some guy who codes for a living in Munich. This fellow reached a point where he decided programming from a laptop was too fraught with peril (losing files, noise, etc) so he transitioned to an iPad + Bluetooth keyboard + remote unix box situation. He does all his work from an iPad now. This just blows my mind.
So, I’m typing this from the wordpress app for iPad. I sure could use that keyboard! It’s kind of arduous to use a touch keyboard. However, I really like the idea of it. Let me elaborate, cause it’s a little involved.
I was recently hired by Haiku LMS to be their mobile development guy. Part of my job is to help find a direction for the mobile version of the site. To that end, the company purchased me a Galaxy Tab as well as an iPad 2. Have you heard of the Willat effect? I got the android tablet first and thought it was way cool. The I got the iPad and it was waaaay cool. The Willat effect basically makes deficiencies and superlatives seem even greater when comparing similar items. (if you drink a coke zero and then a regular coke, the former tastes worse and the latter tastes better than if you drank one or the other on its own.)
Now it’s been a few weeks of using the devices and they’ve morphed into their own types. The android tablet feels like a different device than the iPad. I like them each for different things — I have more freedom on the galaxy tab but there’s more polish on the apple device. I like the form factor of the android tablet but it doesn’t have the nice multitouch swipe features that iOS has.
All of these things are sort of beside the point though. The main thing I love about both of the devices is the immediacy of holding applications in my hand. Right now, for example, I really feel connected with what I’m typing. The text is under my thumbs and it feels as if I’m holding a sort of live-novel. When I read books with the kindle app, swiping pages is incredibly satisfying. Shooting photos or video is an odd visceral experience, holding up this screen like a picture frame around your memories.
I’m reminded of something I noticed back in 1997 when I was actively making music. At the time I lacked money for equipment so I did everything on my computer. I had a synth program, a drum program, a sequencer, and the like. If you’ve never done that sort of thing, the general format is a score or just a series of 16 slots you click on. When you hit “play” the program plays a beat or note as it goes down the track for each of the clicked slots.
The thing I noticed and the problem with that interface is that it very quickly adjusts the way you think about music. If you sit down to make a song, you’re subtly forced into thinking in terms of beat beat no beat beat beat no beat, instead of something free-form, like drumming on a table. There’s less improvisation because the form molds your thoughts… The instrument alters the performer.
It’s likewise with software and these touch devices. Interacting with your hands in the screen is far more intimate and different than operating through the distance of a mouse pointer. When I swipe a photo to the side, when I pinch my fingers to close an application, my will is directly affecting what I’m seeing instead of through the proxy of a mouse.
Right now I am holding my words, and it feels really, really neat.
So back to the link I mentioned. One of the things both tablets struck me with was the sense that I’m holding a portal to information. I’m holding photos, or I’m holding a web page, or I’m holding solitaire. This guy is holding his code, and interacting with it in a visceral way. And the instrument is getting out of the way of his creativity. That’s certainly how I feel throughout typing this.
So maybe one day I’ll get a wild hair and start doing that, too. It certainly is appealing.
The only thing holding me back is I still like the power of having a laptop. I’m kind of a nerd’s nerd still.
Anyway, the future is now!*
* with the caveat that there are still glaring deficiencies with this paradigm. I have no word count in this app, and also there is no save as draft with this application. As well as its’s still easier to use a computer to pull in other information to this article, such as linking the article, decorating with images, and so on. Someday it will be perfect, just not now.