Alex Payne, developer for Twitter, sees the release of the iPad as, potentially, the “Tinkerer’s Sunset.” I am keeping my fingers crossed for the perseverance of “openness”.
The thing that bothers me most about the iPad is this: if I had an iPad rather than a real computer as a kid, I’d never be a programmer today. I’d never have had the ability to run whatever stupid, potentially harmful, hugely educational programs I could download or write. I wouldn’t have been able to fire up ResEdit and edit out the Mac startup sound so I could tinker on the computer at all hours without waking my parents.
The release of the iPad is stirring mixed feelings in Steven Frank of Panic Software. In this article he tries to reconcile his understanding of the need for change in the pursuit of progress with his aging understanding of what computing should be.
I share his mixed feelings on the changing face of computing. I own an iPhone and love the ease and simplicity of it, but I grew up tweaking applications with ResEdit until they broke. I fear that by abstracting the machinery of computing away behind a shiny interface, people will eventually lose both the interest and the ability to use computers to their full potential.
Personal computing — having a computer in your house (or your pocket) — as a whole is young. As we know it today, it’s less than a half-century old. It’s younger than TV, younger than radio, younger than cars and airplanes, younger than quite a few living people in fact. In that really incredibly short space of time we’ve gone from punchcards-and-printers to interactive terminals with command lines to window-and-mouse interfaces, each a paradigm shift unto themselves.