My Dad and the iPad

Much has been written about the iPad the past week or so, from the inspiring to the inept. I doubt I can be as elequent as the folks mentioned below, but I want to tell you my story.

My dad is 71 and has Parkinson’s. He’s had it for over 10 years now, and I can see the desease progressing in him, slowly but surely.

Last fall I moved from the US back to Canada to live in his home town. I wanted to be able to spend some quality time with him before he passes on. A few weeks a year for the past 14 years just wasn’t going to cut it for me.

So I’ve moved home. I’m spending time with him, and I want to introduce him to the internet. You have to understand my dad, he’s computer phobic. I think he understands computers, but wouldn’t know the first place to start on a Macintosh. He understands email and internet websites, but would have no idea how to participate in emails or find web sites, or even probably scroll to the lower part of a page.

“What’s a scroll bar?”

“How does a mouse work?”

That’s brings us to the iPad. I wrote the night before it’s introduction that the iPad would need some killer app to really show us the potential of the device.

I think what we saw in that hour and 33 minute introduction was multiple applications, all re-done to support the larger size. All redesigned to truly support doing computing with your fingers.

(As an aside, I saw Avatar for the first time last weekend. When the first glimpse of the pad computers appeared on the screen, the iPad as version 0.01 of the devices is what came to mind).

To my dad. He still has pretty good dexterity with his hands, the Parkinson’s shakes haven’t hit him too much. I’m quite certain that if I set up an email account for him, and set up some web sites for him – cars, news, weather – that he could actually use the iPad, actually become a participating member of the internet society. And, frankly, that thought brings me to tears.

So, yes, I will be getting an iPad. Probably two, one for my dad, and one for me as well. Frankly, if the walled garden approach to applications is what it takes for my dad to get online, I’ll deal.

I’d encourage you to think about someone in your family who could truly use an iPad. Think of all those seniors in homes who are on fixed incomes – a lot would have family that could afford the $499 to bring them online. Or maybe you know of someone who has no immediate family, but you could help by setting up an email account, buy them an iPad, and show them around the device. Set up some favourite bookmarks. Buy them a few cool applications in their hobbie area.

This type of expansion of the accessibility of computing to so many more is what gives me hope about the future. It’s what is slowly making me believe the iPad is really the future of computing. And I’m going to do as much as I can to see that the iPad and future devices are a roaring success.

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Further reading:

Greg Knauss: ‘The Days of Miracles and Wonder’

Rob Foster: On iPads, Grandmas and Game-Changing

Daring Fireball: Various and Assorted Thoughts and Observations Regarding the Just-Announced iPad

Fraser Speirs: Future Shock

Steven Frank: I need to talk to you about computers.