Living Without the iPad

Sunday afternoon, as the sun began to trickle down through the city skyline, I found myself peacefully sitting on my sofa with a cup of tea. My balcony door was open and the smell of nearing spring greeted me. Sipping my tea, I was joined only by my Kindle and a stack of magazines. My phone was in the next room regaining some much needed energy, and I found myself bereft of any immediate connection to the digital world. Free to glance up from the latest New Yorker with little hindrance or attention deficit, I was having a uniquely wonderful afternoon.

Sitting there, I was entirely comfortable away from the incessant chatter of Twitter, from the statistics of ONE37, and the perpetual motion machine that is my Google Reader account. Communications and distractions were at an arm's length, no longer protruding ever-so politely into my attention span at any given moment. I was cut-off and felt no withdrawal.

Flicking through the physical pages of a magazine, I took a moment to enjoy the graphic design. To appreciate the craftsmanship that went into creating each aspect of the publication. I went from page-to-page, rather than jumping to specific sections. With each magazine I completed, I nestled yet another onto a satisfactorily growing stack. A tangible, disconnected, and measurable list of completed tasks. The chrome-less, visual, and simplistic equal of Clear for iPhone, but characterized by a literal sense of weighted confidence rather than digital satisfaction.

As I sat there, the magazines building at my feet and the number of books in my Kindle archive increasing, I felt a remarkable sense of nostalgia. Perhaps aside from the Kindle, the pile of magazines represented a proverbial window onto my past. A past characterized by moments bereft of connectivity and endless notification. A past without the iPad.

The iPad is unquestionably representative of the future of computing and I am unequivocally infatuated with its delightful demeanor, power, and potential. The masquerading of complexity through simplicity is the evident trend of modern technology and none do it better than Apple - particularly with the iPad. In my eyes, the iPad sits as the well-deserved pinnacle of consumer electronics. Hyperbole aside, I truly believe that it is unquestionably changing the way in which we perceive the modern computing equation.

And yet, for all of its marvels, the iPad strikes me as a window onto a problematically tempting landscape. A world comprised of literature, photography, film, television, sport, and productivity. While the glass display may appear physically flat and two dimensional to the end-user, the true significance of the iPad is its existence as a beautiful window onto a seemingly endless world of entertainment. And tomorrow, if the rumors are to be believed, that window is set to be made twice as enticing.

In preparation for the event, I sold my iPad two or three weeks ago. Initially, its absence was obvious. But today, in life sans-iPad, I find myself less plagued by distraction. I no longer Tweet, play, surf, and tap just because the screen beckons me to do so. Perhaps the greatest significance to me as a reader and writer is that, in this environment, I am free to give the written word the attention it warrants.

In retrospect, much of this sounds like a resounding indictment of the iPad's position in life, but I do not mean it to. You see, from this brief vacation away from the iPad, I have had the chance to reconnect with what is truly important to me. I have embraced moments of disconnection and quiet, removed the beautifully nagging display from its position on my coffee table or bedside, and I have returned to the items and focus I so sorely missed from my day-to-day experience.

Call it a lack of self-control but, without this interlude, I doubt I would have the contextual reason and experience to truly appreciate the iPad as the powerful entity that it has become. Without walking away from the device, I would not have come to realize the importance of sustaining a place in life for a glossy physical page, a crisp e-ink display, and a smooth aluminium and glass device - each kept in different and wholly separate positions in my life. The iPad, for all its brilliance, has the power to usurp the position of print, literature, and peaceful quiet from your life if you aren't careful, and that's something worth being cognizant of.

Tomorrow, Apple will announce a new iPad. It will be a dazzling feat of engineering and it will forever change the manner in which we comprehend computing, tablets, and the potential for simplicity therein. But, I say as an incidental warning, it is important to support boundaries in your life from time to time. I have written at length about Apple's systematic removal of computing boundaries and the unifying potential of iCloud, but that is not to say that such a seamless environment should protrude into every facet of life.

The iPad is a means for productivity, entertainment, and communication - it encompasses the tasks we have so often spread across mediums into one centralized and fantastic location. But, in doing so, the door is open for inadvertent and helpless absorption into its environment. Into allowing oneself to reach for the iPad when you would otherwise be open for valuable thinking, reading, writing, and whatever else may be of importance to you.

Today, living without the iPad, I have regained my grasp upon all that is intellectually dear to me - digital and physical - and I am better for it. Tomorrow, Apple will announce an amazing device and I will buy one as soon as I can, but I will do so with a contextual awareness heretofore forgotten from my life. 

Rumors, speculation and rampant discussion be damned, that is why I'm excited for the next iPad.