Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
To type or not to type – that is the tablet question. A long time ago in a cubicle far, far away, one fingered poking at keys sent a clear message – this person can’t touch type. Must have missed the high school typing class in favor of shop. I knew many one-fingered programmers, back in the day – they advanced to management quickly to avoid exposure as the typing frauds they were. They weren’t big on writing longhand letters, and voluminous e-mails were not strengths. But authors, journalists and now bloggers (all 156 million of them) know that their strength is in paragraphs with punch AND punctuation, clauses, and…even upper-lower case. But with tablets and smart phones, the era of richness in typed text may be near an end – watch the swiping users to know of what I speak.
Smart phones are even dumber about text. So let’s say someone has found a real keyboard to attach to their tablet, or they are sending you detailed thoughts and ideas for your comment. There you are, oh traveler, anxious and ready to reply and weigh in. But there you are with your tablet or your miniscule smart phone soft keyboard, poking at a screen with one finger, watching (or not noticing) auto-correct munch your meaning. You accidentally include angry clients in an e-mail address, and shiftless typist that you are -- you omit the punctuation that would convert your nonsense into prose. Your touch screen slips from your hands, catapults you to another screen, forgets the URL you were on and leaves you breathlessly pounding the tiny back arrow.
We’ve lost balance between online consumption and coherence of thought. Because it is too hard to type, punctuate or capitalize, we just don’t. Far easier to read and view than respond, our e-mails pile up in favor of online chatting and its teeny-tiny cousin -- texting – truly brevity at its, uh, briefest. Tablets are so light, so easy to inhale the news, slipping into purses and jackets. They are so inversely proportional to the heft and functionality of monster Dell and Sony laptops that road warriors wish they could leave home – tablets and smart phones seem so sensible. And so additive to the media we own. Don’t you wonder how in our horrendous economy, widespread uncertainty and job instability that so many of them are selling so well?
Don’t trash that computer and cell phone yet – retro may return. Some analysts see the tablet and smart phone as signaling the beginning of the end of their predecessors – laptops, desktops, and cell phones – still the mainstay of older (and oldest) adults. As with previous tech trends, it can be one step forward, two back. Some early adopters tire of talking on hockey pucks with bad keyboards -- and also carry a cell phone. Or they may plug in a head/handset to their not-so-smart phone that feels just like an old-fashioned phone handset. Some tablet owners may tire of shifting and leaving sticky fingerprints. Ever so trendy, even they may tire of carrying an extra keyboard just to write in full sentences, tire of replying to people they care about with yup, nope, and LOL. As tablets evolve to more sophisticated designs, they may grow to resemble – dare I say it – lightweight netbooks, notebooks, or laptops with touch screens that start quickly and enable multiple viewing formats. Mark my words – as with retro clothing, houses and cars, what’s old hat may become new and cool again.