iPad as Low WATT

iPad“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.”  Alfred North Whitehead, Introduction to Mathematics, 1911.

Computers began as iconic examples of High WATT devices.  Whether huge vacuum tube mainframes or early Altairs, you had to engage a lot of Willingness and Ability to Think just to start the damn thing much less make it do anything past “Hello, World!”  Even the early PCs for the Rest of Us like the IBM PC, the Apple II, or my favorite, the KayPro, required constant High WATT processing to initiate, maintain, and expand any task whether through VisiCalc, WordStar, dBase, or another MS-DOS fav of mine, Systat.  People with a preference for Low WATT activity looked at computers back then as nerd toys that would never enjoy mainstream acceptance from normal people.

So, how did we get here where millions of people will line up in costumes in snaky lines in front of Apple stores to drop five bills on Yet Another Computer?

Low WATT devices, baby.

You can drive the Peripheral Route to your heart’s content on an iGizmo.  Press the only mechanical button on the device to activate.  Good grief, leave a gorilla alone in a cage with a bottle of bourbon for an hour then toss in an iGizmo and he’d eventually hit the one button and see the light.  Then slide an arrow over the pulsing text – even if you can’t understand English you can figure it out.  Apple could use Belarusian Cyrillic instead – слайд, каб разблакаваць – and that gorilla would still get it.

Now what?  A screen full of colorful icons from the international language of travel symbols.  And even if you’re not sure, tap it any way, and see what happens.  Then you’re in a groove.  Pure classical conditioning with a little operant when you’re learning something new.  A Ding-Dong For You!

You see Low WATT in how you use an iGizmo, but the Low WATT tattoo is more obvious in what you can produce with an iGizmo:  Nothing.  Your creative input is restricted to a cramped keyboard that supports the acronymic language of OMG, LOL, and WTF and little else without carpel tunnel syndrome.  You cannot analyze data; write poetry, prose, or advertising copy; paint, design, or shape image, color, or form.  An iGizmo is pure reaction; you cannot stimulate.  It is a pure form of mob WATTage:  Anything for Everyone All the Time.

Cues are Cool!

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  But, while the Rest of Us cruise the Peripheral Route, Jobs, Apple, and others have figured out the Arguments and determined that the iPad may just be the biggest marketing tool since credit cards.  People are falling over themselves as they amble along picking at the Cues like pretty shells on the beach . . . wow, Web 2.0, we’re so connected.

Jobs and Apple made billions by understanding what Alfred North Whitehead meant.  Who’d think a British mathematician would know this?