The iPad is to computing in 2010 as the Kodak camera was to photography back in 1888.
In that year George Eastman registered Kodak as a trademark and coined the phrase “You Press the Button and We Do the Rest” thus introducing the concept of a “snapshot” and expanding access to photography beyond a niche, technical audience.
Prior to Kodak, photography was a pain. You had to tinker with recipes, manipulate complicated instruments, and go through a time-consuming and error-prone processing period. With the magical Kodak, however, you took a picture with the camera’s one button. You extracted the roll of film when it was used up and mailed the whole thing to Kodak for processing. They’d return you a complete set of tidy-looking prints.
Amateur photography exploded and access to image making blew up. Competitors came in on the scene and here we are in 2010 with a vast ecology of cameras from basic point-and-shoots to full-featured digital SLRs.
Some are complaining that iPad kills creativity by controlling access to computing. Its “black box” concept of computer interaction waters down programming and restricts innovation because Apple controls both the programming environment and the user experience so tightly. This, they argue, is a harbinger of a dark future where corporate behemoths restrict how we use computers.
But did this happen with photography when the Kodak was introduced? Absolutely not. Photography expanded and became even more instrumental in people’s lives. The iPad will have a similar cultural effect by liberating computing from a technical crowd. There will still be computers with power user features, knobs, and cogs and all sorts of customizations for tinkerers and professionals. But there will also be a huge swath of very basic computers that get basic things done. And offer a gateway experience for those who might otherwise be turned off from computing in its current form.
This is a promising time for computing. Let’s think back to 1888.