One of these things is just like the other… May 1, 2013Posted by Scott Campbell in : STV302 , comments closed
Quick, why is a raven like a writing desk? The riddle can be found in Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice in Wonderland, and was said to be amusing because the raven and writing desk aren’t similar at all. Ha-ha! The lack of answer hasn’t stopped people from trying to find one: Perhaps because Poe wrote on both? Or because there is a B in both and an N in neither?
I couldn’t help think of this dilemma of things unlike other things when I saw this article: Dressed up tablets the future of cash registers.
“With the advent of tablets, particularly the iPad, many stores have traded in their clunky cash registers for mobile devices. Now, though, they are dressing up those tablets with inventive accessories to make them both more pleasant to look at and more practical for cashiers.”
The article is mostly about the idea that tablets can be an improvement over “clunky” and “plastic” cash registers, especially if the tablet can be wrapped in wood, silver or logos or carried around a store to serve customers individually.
“Some designers believe conventional cash registers interfere with the relationship between customers and sales people. From a design point of view, it’s a disaster, and from a retail point of view, it’s a disaster because employees are standing behind these refrigerators,” said Dean Heckler, who owns his own design firm in Phoenix.
Who knew? Cash registers (and refrigerators?) are getting in the way of sales.
But, to return to my theme of ravens, writing desks and things that don’t go together, what struck me about this story is that tablets and cash registers do go together. Tablets (and computers in general) owe a fair historical debt to the humble cash register. They certainly come from the same technological tradition of adding machines: cash registers were and are just special-purpose calculators or computers, and easily rank as one of the most important computing devices that existed before there were electronic computers. A glance at the history of a company like NCR (National Cash Register Corporation) from the late 19th through to the early 21st century confirms that the technologies were intertwined. Famously, Thomas J. Watson, the many who led IBM in the first half of the 20th century, up to and into the modern computer era, acquired his substantial business acumen working for NCR. So let’s not forget the historical connection between cash registers and tablets before retiring the former.
Finally, the article also highlights one of the apparent risks of handing cashiers a tablet: that employers might find them “goofing off on the store’s iPad by playing Angry Birds or checking email.” I was a little surprised at the lack of security on such a tablet, not just to control the labour but to prevent malware, viruses, spam and the like on a device intended for processing financial transactions. But, perhaps this speaks to another lesson from the history of computing: that general-purpose computers will often surpass and replace special-purpose computers. This was true of the office machine industry of the early 20th century (replaced by general purpose computers starting in the 1950s), true of the elite, high-speed supercomputers in the 1960s and 1970s (replaced by personal computers and workstations in the 1980s and 1990s), true with pagers of the 1980s and 1990s (replaced by smartphones today), and now its true with cash-registers and tablets.
Of iPads and man bags October 17, 2012Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
A recent item in the Daily Mail relates the claim that man bags are becoming more popular and are larger than ladies’ purses:
Four in five men now carry a ‘manbag’ – and on average it weighs more than a lady’s handbag.
On average, the contents of a manbag are worth £1,108 and weigh 1.5 kilograms. A woman’s handbag weighs in at 1.2 kilograms.
The trend in men’s fashion has been bolstered, the article goes on to say, by the need for men to carry around an increasing arsenal of gear, especially an iPad. I suppose that would account for the lofty price of the contents of the average man bag.
Indeed, the latest man bags are enormous. The Civvy Kit Bag by Goruck has a capacity of 56 liters, enough to carry a whole load of washing or a few Ikea flatpacks, not to mention a dozen or more iPads.
Casually hauling around that amount of gear is just too much, even for a real man. Happily for us, there is good news: Apple is coming out with the iPad mini with a 7″ screen. Now, a man can carry his iPad mini without incurring back injury.
Or can he? Is the iPad mini a girlie iPad? Women’s stuff is often designed to be a smaller version of masculine stuff: “Shrink it and pink it” is how technology is often made ready for feminine use. If so, to avoid the shame of appearing effeminate, real men will have to avoid the iPad mini and continue to express their masculinity through their brobdingnagian purses.
A magazine is an iPad that does not work October 19, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV302 , comments closed
Below is a cute video that is making the rounds. It shows a 1 year-old girl playing with an iPad, then a magazine, then an iPad. According to the father, Jean-Louis Costanza, the video shows how profoundly her experience with the iPad has “coded” his infant daughter.
It might be interesting to test more systematically the claim that exposure to an iPad will frame the expectations that children have of any old picture that they run across. However, the claim is plausible enough. And it does provide an amusing illustration of one of the themes of this blog, that technology is not just a tool. In this case, the introduction of an iPad has enabled the girl to interact playfully with pictures that then respond to her touch. In addition, it has changed (or, at least, conditioned) her perception of other things, such as photographs in magazines. The result, as her father puts it, is that a magazine becomes an iPad that does not work. In short, the iPad does not merely afford a new activity, it also affects how users treat affordances that were available before.
The murse October 18, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202 , comments closed
Being a man can be difficult, largely due to the difficult fashion choices that we are called upon to make. I recall last year reading about the problem of how men could carry an iPad around without compromising their masculinity. The iPad is, after all, too large to fit into a shirt pocket. Carrying one in a bag would be one solution but some men are uncomfortable with the notion being seen holding what looks like purse.
“Women, they have purses to put this kind of stuff in; men don’t,” said André von Houck, a 22-year-old programmer from San Francisco. “I don’t want to carry any bags.” His solution: he simply leaves his iPad at home. “I don’t carry it anywhere.”
A solution one person found was to purchase a WWII era Swiss ammunition case. Military gear is suitably masculine, but some men might balk at entering a coffee shop with what might be mistaken for mal-intent.
However, a solution is now at hand! It seems that the era of the man purse has come. Isabel Wilkinson discusses how a the man-purse, or “murse”, is becoming socially acceptable. Manly men like soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo have been seen carrying a Gucci clutch bag, and Jay-Z has taken a liking to his Louis Vuitton.
The murse must be distinguished from the man-bag, which has enjoyed some cachet recently. The man-bag is essentially a fashionable satchel, a riff on a bag that is was already alright for men to carry in public. The murse is the real thing: a purse-sized bag for carrying the essentials, utilitarian and stylish all at once. Now a man can carry around his iPad in his murse tucked under his arm!
It is unclear that the murse will really take off, however. Rappers do provide a potent model of edgy masculinity, so it is plausible to think that the murse might become acceptable for men who follow their lead. Yet, the feminine associations with the purse will be hard to dislodge. Rappers and movie stars can afford to appear eccentric but not so the man-in-the-street. It might be that the murse would stand more of a chance if it became associated with a cause. Here, I am thinking of Pink shirt day in Canada, on which it is acceptable for boys to wear pink shirts in protest against bullying in solidarity with their schoolmates.
Well, the prospect of a murse is worthy of discussion. How would you design a murse that you (or a man in your life) would be willing to carry?
iPads in the cockpit July 27, 2011Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV302 , comments closed
The New York Times reports that commercial airline pilots will be using iPads instead of paper manuals in the cockpit. Instead of carting around 40 lbs. or so of manuals of various kinds, the aircrew will be able to consult their tablets:
There are the aircraft’s operating manual, safety checklists, logbooks for entering airplane performance data, navigation charts, weather information, airport diagrams and maybe a book of KenKen puzzles thrown in for good measure.
There are numerous benefits to the scheme. First off, not having to cart so much weight will be easier on the backs of the flight crews. Then, iPad apps will be easier and more efficient to access than bulky manuals, and will be updated automatically instead of through tedious swapping out of physical pages.
The main concern mentioned is safety. Could signals originating from the iPad not interfere with flight electronics? This worry is easily addressed:
Moreover, the F.A.A. said pilots at the two airlines would not have to shut off and store their iPads during taxiing, takeoff and landing because they had demonstrated that the devices would not impair the functioning of onboard electronics. Alaska Airlines pilots, like passengers, still have to put their iPads away during those critical phases of the flight.
Not considered in the piece are some of the advantages of paper manuals. For one thing, hackers on the ‘net cannot break into a plane’s binders and change their contents or crash them. Likewise, paper manuals cannot be infected by contact with other documents on the shelves, whereas iPads can indeed get infected with viruses and other malware. Paper manuals do not experience battery failures, nor can their batteries be hacked, unlike Apple’s batteries. Flight crews will not likely be distracted playing games on the manuals (or even reading them) when they get bored with monitoring the instruments.
Also, I wonder if iPads might not be adversely affected by the higher-than-normal levels of radiation to which they will be exposed during frequent flights. I would guess that Apple has not tested them for this contingency, although their EULA undoubtedly takes care of this issue. (Haven’t read the EULA? Let Richard Dreyfuss read it to you!)
In any event, the move makes sense to me. With Apple set to store all our data in the clouds, iPads aloft should have the shortest access times.
iPads already installed in cars April 7, 2010Posted by Cameron Shelley in : STV202, STV302 , comments closed
Despite barely making to the store shelves, the iPad has already been installed in cars. The safety hazard, to drivers and others, of this use of the iPad is obvious enough. The FastCompany article notes, somewhat tongue in cheek, that the iPad will be a relief for bored drivers:
As it is now, in-vehicle screens are usually out of sight of the driver, who has that lame, media-free job of driving the car from point A to point B. So boring. But now that the rich colors, the zooming menus, the practically unlimited library of games is available literally at your iFingertips, will the driver be able to resist looking over, or, Heaven forbid, participating?
Driving can be boring. However, it seems to me that some people are more like druggies who cannot be away from their Internet fix for more than a minute. Thus, it would be useless simply to urge people to refrain simply out of a sense of self-preservation: Driving while iPadding is clearly not a rational act; drivers who play with their iPads will just tell themselves that they are so good at multitasking that they are an exception to the rule.
Well, Korea and China have camps where Internet addicts go for treatment (or torment). Perhaps therapy instead of fines would be an appropriate measure for those who cannot resist the siren song of the iPad while at the wheel.