Obsolete Information

For no particular reason at all, today I found myself thinking about the future. Specifically, about phone numbers.

I was looking at my daughter and imagining her several years hence, when she gets her first iPhone (or whatever gadget has replaced it by then). And I thought about how the persistence of memory in our gadgets and the rudimentary artificial intelligences that power them have made the knowing of certain bits of information an obsolete practice.

If you’re my age or older (do they get older???), then you probably still remember a few key phone numbers. I remember my mother’s (it hasn’t changed in more than thirty years) and — for some reason — the very first phone number I ever had. But I can’t remember my wife’s for the life of me, mainly because I never had to learn it. I entered it into my address book once and it populated across all of my devices. When I need to call her, I tap her name or tell Siri.

The same is true of email addresses. And Twitter handles. We know people by their names and our gadgets remember the rest for us.

“We know all of this, Barry,” you’re saying, rolling your eyes at my early onset senility. But, no — I told you that so that I could tell you this:

Right now, if you meet someone and want their contact information, you request it and they give it to you. You then dutifully enter it into a database1 and never think about it again.

This seems like an outrageously simple procedure, but why shouldn’t it be simpler?

Again, envisioning the future my daughter will live in: She’s ten years old and has just received her Apple Necklace, a stylish choker that — through Siri 10.0 — can respond to her subvocal commands and communicate to her and her alone via signals that travel up her neck and along her jawbone to vibrate her eardrums. There’s no interface — she doesn’t need an interface. She talks to it, and it responds.

She wants to be able to call or text her grandmother or send photos from the Bluetooth-linked eyepiece she’s getting for her birthday, so she needs to enter Gramma’s contact info.

Or does she?

Because the next time she’s in proximity to my mother, she can just tell Siri, “That’s my Gramma.” And Siri will link up with my mom’s gadgets and the two will quickly hand off information. In the blink of an eye, my daughter’s Necklace creates a contact — Gramma — and populates it with all of the contact info in my mom’s gadget.

When my daughter wants to talk or text or otherwise communicate with her grandmother, all she does is tell Siri, “Call Gramma” or “Tell Gramma I can’t wait to see her.”

The distinction between phone call and text and email is an artificial one that exists mostly because of the different evolutions of the technologies. As time and technology progress, though, there’s no need to think, “I want to contact Person X. What’s the best way to do that?” Let the tech handle it. The tech will figure out the best way to contact Person X at that particular time and just take it from there. And, furthermore, let the tech set up the contact info in the first place. It’s not a question of “In the future, will you remember anyone’s phone number?”

It’s more like, “In the future, will you ever know anyone’s phone number in the first place?”

 



  1. You may not think of it as a database, but that’s exactly what your contacts list is.

For the Tech of It: Hardware (Desktop)

My iMac and monitor set-up

I am frequently asked about the tools of the trade. Since writing doesn’t usually involve sawdust or any sort of protective goggles, those tools are pretty much digital.1 So, I’m going to do some BLogs wherein I go through my digital toolbox, starting today with where most of my work gets done: On my desktop. [Read more…]



  1. I almost never use anything but a computer, from note-taking through to final draft. Occasionally, I’ll jot something down on a piece of paper in the unusual scenario where I can’t get to my phone, but that’s really, really rare.

What I Want in iOS 7

So, yesterday I blathered a bit about iOS 6. In writing that piece, I found myself thinking — a lot — “Gee, I hope in the next version, Apple will X, Y, and maybe Z.” So, I decided to spin those thoughts off into their own little post… [Read more…]

What I Think of iOS 6

In the unlikely event you care what I think… [Read more…]

My iPad Review

For almost a week now, I’ve been living with my newest toy essential piece of technology: the iPad. For some reason, people seem curious to know what I think of it (as if my opinion matters on these things), and I decided that I would provide something a little more in-depth than, “Ah! Oh! Cool!”

But first: “Ah! Oh! Cool!”

:)

To begin with, I guess I should talk about why I bought the iPad. I have something of a reputation for being an unapologetic Apple fanboy, so no one I know was really surprised when I bought it. But contrary to popular opinion, I don’t buy everything Apple produces, nor do I automatically buy the newest/latest/greatest just because it’s new/late/great. I only buy equipment that I need (bearing in mind that my definition of “need” may differ from yours).

In this case, my venerable iBook G4 was more than a little bit long in the tooth, and I knew that I would have to replace it some time this year. I had a choice: I could spend close to two thousand dollars to buy a new laptop…or I could drop much, much less on the iPad. If the former, I would get something that I knew would meet every last one of my needs…but would weigh quite a bit and be bulky and inconvenient to carry on trips. (The reason I stuck with the aging G4 for so long was its form factor — in terms of surface area, it’s the smallest laptop Apple’s made in years). If the latter, well… I couldn’t be 100% sure that an iPad would meet all of my needs, but I was reasonably certain. Plus, there was the weight/bulk benefit. I travel a lot and every ounce I can leave at home is an advantage.

I’m not a big risk-taker when it comes to spending money, but this seemed like one worth taking.

So, I picked up an iPad, and while I’ve only had a few days with it, I have to say: Thus far, it has absolutely met my expectations and seems like it will fit well with my workflow.

(Weird true fact: As I type this, an iPad commercial just came on TV!)

So, here are some things people are wondering:

  1. Have I had any wifi problems? Nope. None at all. And when you consider that Apple has sold well over half a million of these things, if even 5,000 people have a temporary wifi problem, that’s less than 1%. It happens. In my experience, Apple fixes these things quickly and/or lets you exchange your defective model. Not buying an iPad because “some people on the Internet” have had wifi issues is, to me, like not buying a car because someone else got into an accident.
  2. How’s the virtual keyboard? Pretty damn awesome, if you want to know the truth. I won’t be typing a novel with it, but for e-mails, short articles, etc., it’s just fine.
  3. Isn’t it just a big iPod touch? In form factor, sure. But when you blow up the screen real estate on an iPod touch, you suddenly have an entirely different universe of possibilities at your (heh heh) fingertips. I can’t persuade you of this fact with words — you need to experience it for yourself. For example, Google Maps suddenly becomes something entirely magical when you have a canvas so big to play on. If you’re curious at all, head to an Apple Store and play with an iPad. The proof of the pudding really is in the taste.
  4. Can you get real work done on it? Sure I can. WIth a Bluetooth keyboard, I can write just as well as I ever could on a laptop or a desktop. In fact (and I bet you saw this coming), I wrote this BLog entry while reclining on my sofa, with the iPad propped against my legs and a Bluetooth keyboard on my lap.
  5. Are there any problems? Well…

Yeah. Sure. Of course there are.

  1. Pages (Apple’s word processor) is a really amazing piece of software, but it’s just not a replacement for a “real” word processor. Not yet. It needs a Track Changes feature before I can really use it the way I’m used to using a laptop. If someone else whips up a word processor that can open and save files with Word’s Track Changes intact, I’ll be a happy guy. I’m sure Apple will eventually get around to adding it (the first version of Pages on the Mac lacked Track Changes, too), but in the meantime, I have to work around it. There are other issues, too, most of which are minor and I’m sure will be fixed as time goes on.
  2. I would love the option to install a non-WebKit web browser. For some reason, the content management software that I use to run barrylyga.com doesn’t like WebKit browsers — updating my website with the iPad is an exercise in sheer annoyance, meaning that while traveling, I’ll probably stick to Twitter and Facebook, saving major updates for my return home to my iMac. I’m not sure why Apple doesn’t allow, say, Firefox on the iPad. I just wish they did. Still, this isn’t really a deal-killer. I use a somewhat nonstandard backend for my site. If I used WordPress or any number of other more common platforms, I would have no problems updating from the iPad.
  3. The web browser on the iPad is really beautiful, but it does have one “feature” that annoys me every time i use it — when I tap and hold on a link to open a web page in a new window, I am forced to go directly to that new page. What I really want is what exists on the Mac and Windows: Namely, the ability to say, “Open this link in the background, not the foreground.” This way, I can go through a page, opening links as I go, then look at all of those new pages when I want. As it stands right now, I have to open a window, navigate back to the original page, then open a new page.
  4. There is — and most likely never will be — Scrivener for the iPad. This makes me sadder than you can possibly imagine. I’ve already spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a reasonable substitute, but so far nothing has made me ecstatic. I will keep looking, though!
  5. The biggie: No remote control! There is, unbelievably, no way to control the iPad at a distance! In other words, if I want to run a presentation from my iPad, I can’t use a remote or even a Bluetooth keyboard to do so. I have to stand AT the iPad. This is just an absolutely absurd and idiotic oversight, so contrary to the Apple Way that I’m still sort of stunned it exists at all. I keep re-thinking it, imagining that I must have missed something obvious. But, no. A very, very sad and stupid misstep from a company that rarely makes them.

Now, are these the only problems? Nah. But they’re the only ones that stand out as worth mentioning. I can’t wait for more new apps to be available, and I can’t wait for some of my favorite apps to be updated for the iPad’s features and screen.

All in all, I’m happy with my iPad. As time goes on, I expect new features and new apps to make it even more useful.

Oh, and one more thing: When the iPad was announced, there were lots of chuckles about the name. Like everyone else, I indulged in a little inner-twelve-year-old comedy when Steve Jobs announced that Apple’s long-awaited tablet would be called the iPad. Hey, look — I’m no prude. I’ll listen to your feminine hygiene product jokes all you want.

But it’s been months now and I still see people making jokes and gainsaying the name in blogs and on message boards, always coming back to the same thing: “iPad? Didn’t they talk to any WOMEN before they named it??? Don’t they know it sounds like…”

Sigh.

So, let’s go through this in slow motion. This is a pad:

 

And, yes, so is this:

Maxipad

But so is this:

Mouse pad

And this:

Brillo pad

And this:

Brake pads

And this:

Notepad

And this:

Lilypad

And even this:

Foot pad

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Someday I’m sure Apple will release a computer specifically designed at people who own cooperative housing units. It will be called the CondoMac, and we’ll all have another laugh at that point. But until then, can we retire the iPad jokes?