I broke the iPad cycle of addiction. Unfortunately, it took breaking the actual iPad.
For the longest time, I had no modern tech toys. No smartphone, no tablet, no netbook. I had a price-leader laptop that I’d used for graduate school…and a PlayStation2. Then I got a decent job and they issued me an iPhone. I loved it – I had the web in my pocket, and it was so darn useful! I checked the weather radars, I navigated as I drove, I found restaurant reviews while out and about. I tried to play some games on it and while fun…the screen was pretty small, so it didn’t dominate my time.
When the iPad came out, I dismissed it. Smaller screen than a netbook and no keyboard? Can’t fit in my pocket? If I want portable internet, I have a smartphone…if I want a real screen I have a laptop. How much was a touchscreen worth to people, anyway? I called it the ”answer to a question that nobody’s asking.”
Then my employer issued one to every IT employee, and I was the “owner” of a new iPad2. Owner is in quotes because they all still belonged to my employer, and we would have to surrender them if we found another job. I thought it was a neat toy – all portable and stuff – but still not really necessary, or desirable.
As I used it I realized that hey, I kind of liked the way it formatted and organized my e-mails…the threading of conversations was eminently usable, and my desktop client of Outlook was unable to do the same. And the calendar was pretty well done as well. I could carry it to meetings easier than my laptop, too…it was so thin I could just pop it into my notepad/folder and carry it to meetings super-easily.
At the time, a large part of my job was customer-facing, and I demonstrated some software packages to physician offices. They were interested in the iPad’s usability, so I installed the Citrix client on it and was able to demo our electronic medical record system to interested physicians. It wasn’t suitable for really using the EMR, but was great for demonstrating.
And I downloaded a few apps that were great to have – Yelp, weather radar, Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, things like that. The ipad started to be useful for more than just work. So I started bringing it home.
Then I downloaded a game. I forget what it was – Angry Birds, probably. Whatever it was, it was a small game that interested me for a little while. And when I grew bored with it, I downloaded another. The number of free games on the App Store is staggering, and the selection was never-ending. I started downloading five or six games at a time, and trying them for a while, then ditching them, and downloading more. None of them were very in-depth, and most of them were mild, casual time-killers at the most.
And without even realizing it, I was on the iPad every spare minute at home. When I got home it’d go on the kitchen counter and go “ding” when I got e-mails. It fired up and went to the internet faster than a Windows laptop possibly could. And I’d sit on the couch with it before dinner. And after dinner. And take it to the bathroom with me – sorry, I know that’s gross, but it’s the truth. My kids complained that they couldn’t play it. My wife complained that I paid more attention to my iPad than to my kids. She was right, but I didn’t care. The games, the internet, the apps were just too enticing.
Then one day in May we had a fire alarm at work. Like, a real, not-a-fire-drill fire alarm. I grabbed my notebook with my iPad and went outside. And dropped it. Just like that, my iPad’s screen shattered. It still worked, but it was unusable. I inquired “for a friend” what would happen…and found out that I was liable for the repair cost: $250 at an Apple store. $150 at an independent shop. About $50 in parts if I did it myself.
So I put it in the box, and I put it in my desk drawer at work, and I promptly went into withdrawal. I came home and told my wife what had happened, and while she was beside herself that we were going to have to pay for a whole new iPad (despite all facts to the contrary) she was glad that I could no longer pay attention to the other-woman-with-a-touchscreen anymore.
I, on the other hand, didn’t know what to do with myself. My entire evening and weekend routine was broken. I couldn’t walk up and check Facebook. I couldn’t sit on the couch and waste an hour racing cars and jousting with knights and running from temples. I’d changed teams at work and they’d repossessed my iPhone, so I had no mobile internet at all. It was a horror!
But, over the course of several weeks, the horror went away. I realized that the games were stupid time-wasters, and that all of the other things were actually easily done on a laptop…and weren’t actually that necessary anyway. I remembered once again that the iPad was a nice toy, but really not a necessity.
So in November (I think) I finally ordered the parts, and took a couple of days and replaced the screen on my iPad. My little touchscreen mistress was back in business again, good as new if I ignored the scarfed up corner of the case that I’d had to (gently) hammer a dent out of.
I powered it on. I flipped through screens. I asked myself, “What are these apps, anyway?” Seriously, I looked at the icons for all of the games I’d downloaded, and truly could not figure out what about them had drawn me in so totally and completely. They looked stupid, to be honest.
So it’s late January now. The iPad is still in a drawer in my desk at work. I don’t bother with it anymore. Although…I have a couple of flights to and from Wisconsin that I have to make in the next month. They’re three hour flights. New FAA regulations allow handheld electronic devices to be used all of the time on flights, and those flights are sooo boring when there’s nothing but clouds or darkness outside the window.
I just got back from one of those flights yesterday. I looked around the airplane at the blue glow of little touchscreens from every seat around me. Most people had closed their windowshade to eliminate the glare on their screen, and those people ignored the beautiful red sunset outside the window.
I’ve been meaning to read “Ender’s Game.” I’ll pull out the iPad and make sure it works when I have to turn it back into my employer.