iPads can ruin your marriage and your eyesight

By Martin Courtney
19 Apr 2011 View Comments
Computing's Martin Courtney

I have a friend whose wife recently threatened to leave him after she was regularly woken up in the middle of the night to find his iPad propped against her back while he checked email from colleagues in other parts of the world.

It wasn't just a bedroom problem; the dining table, garden chair and lounge sofa had all become venues for constant obsessing about communicating with business partners at every hour of the day while simultaneously ignoring his children and everybody else around him.

Further reading

In his defence, he is not the only one, and at least he recognises his addiction and the need to change his ways. He is also something of a classic demographic for the iPad: a BMW convertible-driving sales director for whom the tablet PC offers a genuinely versatile format when it comes to customer presentations. And if he's honest with himself, just a little bit of the Flash Harry type that likes to say "look at me, I've got an iPad!"

There is something peculiar, even sinister, about the iPad's ability to brainwash people into craving its usage and judging themselves ubercool just by being seen to hold one in public – something that does not seem apparent in any other mobile device on the market other than a couple of relatively overpriced gadgets which also happen to be manufactured by Apple.

It is the iPad's sleek design, unencumbered with any practical way of getting data in or out of it save Wi-Fi connectivity, combined with unrivalled marketing campaigns which render the device more of a lifestyle than a technology choice. As somebody much cleverer than me once said, advertising doesn't sell products, it sells dreams.

Even so, you have to wonder about the damage that heavy duty indoctrination does to people's brains, to the extent that they seem incapable of rational thinking in quite normal situations.

I recently watched a news article on the BBC's Look East programme which profiled a young woman in a supermarket who was using an iPhone app to check whether a cereal she had just taken off the shelf was gluten free, by using the device to scan the barcode and check it against an online database (I'm not joking, this was a genuine news report, right after the one about the hamster surfing on the River Cam).

This struck me as an odd thing to do for several reasons.

First, she could have just read the label rather than roaming the aisle holding the iPhone above her head doing her best to get a mobile data signal, and periodically checking the screen every few seconds to see if the result of the database crosscheck had come through.

The reason given by the sharp-witted reporter for the subject not reading the printed information on the box was that she was short-sighted. But she wasn't wearing glasses, and I thought opticians could provide lenses to fix that particular problem?

Plus, what was the software company doing developing an application that is useful only to adults suffering from coeliac disease, who are short-sighted, who don't trust opticians and who own an iPhone?

I have to admit ignorance as to exactly how many people in the UK that Venn diagram would capture, but targeting your wares at what I would imagine to be a relatively small group seems contrary to any serious revenue-generation ambition.

Where Apple mobile gadgets are concerned, myopia is the order of the day all round.

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