All my life I have had a “thing” about machines. I have never been able to make them work much less fix them when they don’t. Going back to an outboard motor when I was a youngster I have always felt that I was at a horrible disadvantage with the machine and sooner or later it would get me.
For example, I advise you not to fly on an airplane with me. As soon as I touch the entertainment system it goes on the fritz. Sometimes just for me, more often for the entire row, sometimes for the whole cabin.
I first started using a computer in 1984. It was a Xerox and it had enormous floppy disks that you had to initialize in order to get started. It constantly locked, usually just when I’d finished and editorial and there was nothing left I could do but start all over again!
I moved into Microsoft in the early 90s and used one for about 25 years. It and I had our moments but by and large I was able to turn it into a typewriter that recorded what I wrote. This was all I wanted, so by and large we survived.
One of the hallmarks of my relationship with computers is that I never learned the lingo. I couldn’t understand the difference between a “server” and a “search engine” and frankly didn’t much care. I learned to use the beast not because I understood, but because I learned by rote. I learned what buttons to push when and so on without knowing or caring why
My main difficulty over the first nearly 25 years is that I would accidentally hit something and all would disappear When my friend Craig tried to tell me why that happened I would get impatient and simply say “I don’t care how it happened, just tell me what not to do so it doesn’t happen again”. In other words in my stupidity I had no idea why this machine was behaving as it did – I just learned to memorize the moves.
Throughout this, I kept hearing rumours that Apple was a superior product. It didn’t occur to me until recently that I heard all this from people much younger than I. My grandchildren extol the virtues of Apple. I read Steve Jobs’ biography and was much impressed.
… still the devil you know.
An epiphany occurred… I learned that you get by with a very small handheld computer, dictate what you wanted into it, your dictation would be printed, you could edit it and then email it off to your publisher. If this was true it was manna from heaven.
My friend Craig tod me this was true and I wound up the possessor of an iPad. The whole story has a happy ending, sort of, in that it did what he promised. I am now able – as I am doing now – to dictate my articles, edit them and send them on. This was a terrific advantage to me because I have a distinct shortage of talent when it comes to typing.
Just looking at my new iPad generally, I found very little to like about it. No longer did I find commands so that I could do things like copy and paste. I had to hit my finger on screen to bring up commands and look at symbols that meant absolutely nothing to me. I found that if I touched the screen accidentally, all Hell would break loose. Usually I would lose what I was doing and would have to go back to the very beginning and start all over again. This, needless to say, annoyed me.
There are number of other things. An iPad is about 10 inches long and 6 inches wide. If you hold it up and down then the picture is up-and-down; if you hold it sideways that the picture is sideways. This is very useful, particularly if you’re reading a book off your Kindle because if you have it sideways, the page presents two columns.
The problem happened, when all of a sudden it stuck in the sideways position. I could not understand it. This meant that I was reading my Kindle at night and the page was splitting in two making each side about a 10 second read.
I did everything imaginable. There is not a symbol I did not hit nor an icon I did not hit. I turned it upside down; I twisted it; I did everything imaginable to it and it would not change.
I contacted Craig who informed me that if I put my finger down at the very bottom of the page and then moved it up there would be a whole set of instructions for me and that would tell me how I could get is going around and around again. It worked! But how the hell was I to know about these hidden instructions?
But the question came to my mind – why would this brilliant innovative company called Apple want to lock the screen in the first place? Under what circumstances would a user decide that they didn’t want to have the ability to turn the screen around but wanted to have a lock forever in one of the four available positions? The answer I got was “I don’t know”. As a matter of fact “I don’t know” is the answer to most questions that one asks about Apple.
Let me pause here to say that none of the things I’m saying here can be taken as the slightest criticism of Craig. I had the opportunity not long ago to go over the iPad with my daughter and her 19-year-old daughter, both of whom are Apple users and in the case of my granddaughter has been from the very beginning. I put to them what I have just said along with a number of other concerns I had which I’ll talk about in a moment and in each case they acknowledged that I was right and then each case when asked why this brilliant innovative company would install these “features” the reply was “I don’t know”. I gather there’s no place one can find out because all Apple does is tell you how good they are but don’t answer questions about how bad they get.
Let me return to the dictation. As I said have said, with all its warts, this has been a great boon to me and has made the cost of about $225 worthwhile despite the fact that there’s so many other things that annoy me.
The first thing I noticed as I dictated was that there was, in many cases, quite a difference between what I had said and what was transcribed. This I could readily see was a matter of us getting used to one another and as time has gone by we’re doing pretty well. I learned, for example, what if I got to the place I wanted to change paragraphs, if I said “change paragraph” that was printed on the screen – not very helpful!! What I had to say was “ new line”. If by mistake I said new lines, the next line would start out with an “s”. You live and learn and gradually I’ve got this part under reasonable control.
What I found really interesting is that the transcription often had injected in a sentence or two that I had not dictated. I was told that this was probably something that I had done before and had been copied and pasted into my new document. Interesting explanation when you think about it because my question was, how? If one copies and pastes , it takes a conscious act to do it – it doesn’t just happen out of thin air. Well, in fact, it does happen out of thin air when one is transcribing on an iPad. The theory that this was something I had wanted done and has been magically cut and pasted was thrown into a cocked hat last week when in the midst of an article on the evils of pipelines and tankers, there was a line asking somebody to deliver me a pizza!
Now, Wendy and I love pizza. We get our pizza, however, either by going out to the pizza place or getting one in Safeway and cooking at home. The fact of the matter is, no one delivers pizzas to Lions Bay where we live.
The obvious question occurred to me, namely, where the hell did this line come from? The answer, of course, was “I don’t know”. We now have them this innovative company, Apple, that half the world swears by, Injecting into a tirade against environmental evil, a line requesting the delivery of a pizza!
One finds that as one dictates that all of a sudden one is not dictating anymore. The drill is this. At the bottom of the screen is a microphone symbol. When you press that microphone a wavy line comes up telling you that you are dictating. Seems pretty simple. The only problem is you may well find that you have dictated for some time and the dictating wasn’t working. When the question is asked, why, this being the great Apple, the answer is, “I don’t know”.
A more basic annoyance is the fact that when you are dictating, it automatically stops after about 30 seconds. In my case, as one who was dictated for a living for probably some 50 or 60 years, I don’t want the damn thing to stop until I want to stop. Nevertheless it stops. When I asked why, the answer was, ”I don’t know”.
The keyboard is most annoying. In fact it is two keyboards. The main one contains all of the letters, plus the “?” and “!”. The second one contains numbers and, most irritatingly, the other punctuation marks. This means when you’re keying and/or dictating, and come to a very ordinary punctuation mark, like a comma, or a semicolon, or a hyphen, you must go to the numbers keyboard. When I asked why the punctuation marks would be left off of the “letters” keyboard where they would be usually used, and why the great innovative computer company Apple would do this, the answer was “I don’t know”.
One of the first things one notices with this scheme, is that a number of words have their first letter in the uppercase for no apparent reason. At first you think there must be something that you have done wrong so you take a lot of time to figure out just what that might have been. Since all you’re doing is holding the iPad and speaking it’s hard to know what you could’ve said or what inflection your voice might have given so that the machine determined that a capital letter on the innocent word was required.
I asked why this happened. The answer was that the word I used was also an “app”. I then asked why would that be so – why would I want that to happen? The answer was “I don’t know”.
Then I asked the next obvious question, Why would this great innovative computer company, Apple, want to capitalize the first letter of an app if it accidentally appears inside some dictation? One example is the word “word” which, in addition to being an ordinary well used English word, happens to be an app as well. If one uses this word while dictating in this magnificent State of the Art computer, it appears with the first letter capitalized. Again I asked why would this self described peerless computer company, Apple, do this? The answer was “I don’t know”. I should add that it is not only apps that are capitalized but other words for absolutely no apparent reason whatsoever. Remember there is no way the dictator can capitalize the word himself by accident, this simply happens because that’s the way Apple computers work – or at least this one does.
I pretty much want to leave it there although there are many other annoying anomalies I could recount.
I do want to, however, deal for just a second with the Internet because it’s an important part of what I do for living.
When I look something up on Google, the usual thing happens. A list of possibilities under that heading, and you go to work picking and choosing and so on. If you follow one particular thought and get some more of Google’s answers on the subject before long you you will likely find that, without warning, a pop-up appears eliminating what you been doing and sending you back to the beginning. This pop-up will have nothing whatever to do with the subject you have been researching and in fact will likely bear no relationship to anything you’ve ever thought about in your life. This means, of course, you have to go back to the beginning and go through the whole process again.
When I have asked why this happens, the answer is “I don’t know”.
I want to repeat myself – these things have nothing to do with my friend Craig who is an absolute saint. He puts up with irate emails and phone calls at all hours of the day and night as I find my way angrily through the handling of this iPad. He is gracious and helpful and prompt.
The fact of the matter is I have checked out all the things that I have told you about with other people including my 19-year-old granddaughter who is a whiz at these things and my daughter who is a somewhat aging whiz and they confirmed chapter and verse all the things that I told you above.
Not only are these people Apple fans, they cannot wait to badmouth Microsoft.
Now you will know from what you have read that I am no expert on either of them. All I can say is that I spent many, many years with Microsoft and while I would have problems with them, mainly due to my own ineptness, I was always able to stumble along without these magical occurrences. I did not have passages mysteriously appearing when I was writing nor did I have pop-ups. If I wanted to do something, like a copy and paste, there were commands that I could press which would do this.
I can only say about Apple, with its legion of worldwide, wide eyed, incredibly faithful fans, is that from my point of view, the Emperor is stark, bald-assed naked.