iPad Doomsayers Make a Compelling Case

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
April 2 2010 1:04 PM

iPad Doomsayers Make a Compelling Case

Tomorrow, Apple's iPad glides into stores, and I've been contemplating getting one. Actually, contemplation hasn't had much to do with it I've been pawing (and pinching, and caressing, and doing all sorts of multi-touching) extremely pretty images of the thing on my computer screen, lost in full-on drool mode. Hype is powerful like that, and I've been hoping for someone to come and multi-smack some sense into me. Is this thing actually worth getting? 

The New York Times ' David Pogue, the Awl's Choire Sicha, and BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow have, in separate pieces, put forward an ardor-dispelling case against the iPad. 

Pogue , in the final paragraph of his generally mixed review: "The iPad is not a laptop. It's not nearly as good for creating stuff. On the other hand, it's infinitely more convenient for consuming it." 

Sicha  builds a similar point into a much less charitable argument: The iPad is "useless as anything but a consumption device," and "actively resist[s] the urges of people to make things."

And  Doctorow  is still harsher, enlisting an extremely un-pretty image from the sci-fi writer William Gibson: "The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a 'consumer,' what William Gibson memorably described as 'something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth ... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote.' " 

It seems the iPad has become a focal point for some long-festering grumblings about the old, underdog Apple vs. new, architect-glasses, ersatz-creative Apple. Doctorow points out that the old Apple ][+ came packaged with under-the-hood schematics should users want to take apart the watch and play with it. He cites a rallying cry for the curious: "Screws not glue." 

How long before someone creates a remix of Apple's famous " 1984 " ad, in which a woman hurls a sledgehammer through a giant, wall-mounted iPad, freeing the poor, app-opiated drones in its thrall? 

Jonah Weiner is Slate's pop critic.