The iPad Revolution

By Scott D’Urso

This past weekend, Apple began selling the iPad, a potentially game changing new mobile electronic device that, according to some technology experts, could revolutionize computing. As a life-long technology junkie, I awaited the launch with great interest, but with a sense of caution. Technology can be a funny thing sometimes where the often hyped, next generation, gotta-have technology can just as easily turn into an over-sized paperweight on your desk. Other times, a technology quietly grows into an indispensable tool that we can remember what we would do without it.

Predicting the future of technology has always been a crapshoot at best. As I frequently tell my students, you should always be vary of grand predictions about both new technologies and their predicted use—whether that prediction is positive or negative in tone. If we listened to these techno-prognosticators, the fax machine would be a museum relic and we would all work in a paperless office by now.

Looking at the iPad, it has the potential to do many things, from the minor—provide users with a lighter, ultra-mobile, user-friendly computing device, to the major—save the newspaper industry from declining readership. Daniel Lyons of Newsweek offers his thoughts on the revolutionary device in the April 5th issue. He takes a detailed look at the potential of the device and its likely impact on society. While the article is somewhat overly positive in nature, it does do an excellent job of looking at what might be. But as positive as this article is, it pails in comparison to another Newsweek article penned nearly 15 years ago by Clifford Stoll that was overly negative in its prediction of another technology you might be familiar with—the Internet.

Clifford (February, 27, 1995) wrote in an article entitled, “The Internet? Bah!: Hype alert: Why Cyberspace Isn’t, and Will Never Be, Nirvana” disputed other predictions of the day that the Internet was the future. Among his negative predictions:

•    No online database will replace the daily newspaper
•    No computer would change the way government works
•    No one will want to buy or read newspapers or books online
•    Computers and the Internet won’t help in the education process
•    No one would buy things, make reservations, or transfer money safely online
•    Virtual environments, where people meet and interact socially, will never work

As you might be chuckling after reading this list, I hope you will remember that the future isn’t written and it is often very difficult to predict. While the iPad may be the next great thing, we should temper our enthusiasm with caution, because we just don’t know what tomorrow may bring.

Scott D’Urso is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication. His research explores new communication technologies.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of Marquette University or the Diederich College of Communication.

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